The Difference: Single Mother Gets Two More Hours With Her Kids, Every Day

The Difference is a new, ongoing feature about the impact that credit unions have in their members’ lives. If you have a great story to share, please email James Pearson:

Annie Graye drove nearly an hour and a half to work each morning, from Rainier to Portland, and then an hour and a half back. This would be hard on anyone. For Graye, a single mother raising three kids, it was excruciating.

“It’s surprising what those hours meant to my family,” she said. “It’s not only the commute time, it’s the time picking the kids up from my mom’s house. We’d typically have to eat out because I didn’t have time to cook.”

One time her daughter slipped in P.E. class, banged her head and broke her arm. “I couldn’t be there,” said Annie. It took her over an hour to get to her daughter in the emergency room.

She thought about moving down to Portland, and listed her house in Rainier. It stayed on the market for a long time before she got a good offer. But even then she hesitated to apply for a mortgage.

“It’s embarrassing to apply for a loan when you’ve had some credit blemishes in the past,” said Graye.

She started looking at rentals down in Portland, but with the school year approaching she didn’t want to put her kids through a double move — into a rental and then into a purchase. She wanted to make sure they were settled in their new home before school started.

Graye decided to go to her local credit union. “I knew that Red Canoe was super nice,” she said. Still she was nervous. At Red Canoe she met loan officer Rena Mattison, who quickly let her know that she was approved for a portfolio loan.

“When Annie first heard she was approved she started crying,” said Mattison.

Graye, relieved and excited, and with the school year closing in fast, began searching in earnest for a condo in Portland. “The condo market is really competitive there,” said Mattison. “She needed a letter in hand. We were able to work with her realtor and quickly get her a pre-approval letter.”

Annie Graye enjoys spending more time with her three children, Lilly, Oscar and Nadine, since she secured home financing from Red Canoe Credit Union.

Finally Annie found a condo that worked for her and her kids. But with only about a month left before school started, it looked like her family would have little or no time to settle into their new home. Her realtor pointed out that it was peak home buying season so it would likely be a long process.

“I called Rena at about 4 p.m. to tell her I’d found a place,” she said, “and by 10 a.m. the next morning she got back to me with the approval.”

“Annie was really helpful getting all her documentation ready to move things along,” said Mattison, who had worked at larger lenders in the past. “At a credit union you have everyone under one roof, so when something like this does come up it’s a whole lot easier to respond.”

Mattison and her team helped Graye get from offer to closing in only 19 days, leaving her two weeks to get her kids settled before school started. “My realtor was blown away,” Graye said.

“Despite being asked to work miracles for me, they were so considerate and kind, never making me feel like a bother (despite my many phone calls and emails),” said Graye about Mattison and the Red Canoe team. “Through the whole process I really felt like they were on my side. I am by no means the ideal home loan candidate, but they never made me feel less than a valued member of Red Canoe.”

The vice president who approved Annie’s loan even opened a line of credit for her, to help build her credit score back up. “I didn’t even ask them to do that,” she gushed. Mattison also offered Graye some advice on continuing to improve her credit — “really helpful tips I didn’t know,” Graye said.

Now, settled into her new condo with her three kids in school in Portland, life looks different for Annie. “My commute is 15 minutes,” she said, “door to door.” That gives her two more hours every day to spend with her kids.

Graye said simply, “I’m really grateful.”

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

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