GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan realtor is helping veterans and front-line workers become homeowners by launching a program called Home Girl Heroes.

Jennifer Gradnigo with Blueberry Realtors in Holland launched Home Girl Heroes earlier this year, describing it as a rewards program that connects our heroes with multiple resources to save them money in the home buying process.

Gradnigo, who served in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 20 years, started the program as a way to give back, especially to fellow veterans.

“So many veterans don’t understand what a VA loan is and a what a lot of their benefits are, and lenders and realtors alike don’t understand what a VA buyer is and what that means.”

That’s where Gradnigo comes in. She helps veterans become homeowners by partnering with lenders and inspectors that have experience with Veteran Affairs loans.

“I have inspectors that are willing to give discounts for first-time homebuyers and veterans and hopefully soon front-line workers as well,” she said.

Gradnigo says working with this team is key, as veterans often face additional obstacles when purchasing a home due to misconceptions surrounding VA loans.

“Because there’s zero down payment (with a VA loan), people assume they’re a cash-strapped buyer, but more than often, that’s not the case.”

One of Gradingo’s favorite success stories was helping a local Iraq War veteran become a first-time homeowner.

Dan Conner had been striking out with lenders for a year and a half when he connected with Gradnigo.

“He would provide financial information and was consistently told to either raise his credit score or have more money in the bank, or they wouldn’t call him back at all,” she said.

Gradnigo said Conner was a strong buyer with a solid credit score.

Within a month of becoming one of Gradnigo’s Home Girl Heroes, Conner closed on a house.

An undated courtesy photo of Jennifer Gradnigo with Blueberry Realtors and Iraq war veteran Dan Conner and his wife. (Jennifer Gradnigo)

“To get him a home was just an incredible feeling because he really wanted to buy,” she said. “When you’re in the military and you have that sense of independence … so to have a home of his own and to provide for his family was incredibly meaningful.”

As part of the program, Gradnigo gives each Home Girl Hero a $500 check upon closing.

An undated courtesy photo of Jennifer Gradnigo with Blueberry Realtors and Iraq war veteran Dan Conner. (Jennifer Gradnigo)

“It’s our way of giving back to our community and fellow veterans and front-line workers,” she said.

More information about the Home Girl Heroes program can be found online.