Williston Police Department uses program to help officers own homes

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WILLISTON, Fla. (WCJB)-- A program is making it easier for first responders to own a home where they work. The program is teaming up with the Williston Police Department to help their officers buy a home.

The Home for Heroes program gives first responders an opportunity to buy homes for a discounted price. Deputy Police Chief Clay Connelly said he is thankful that he found the program.

“I think if you're familiar with Williston, you know we're not the highest paid police department pretty much anywhere,” Connolly said.

Serving the Williston Police Department for 31 years, Connolly wants other police officers to make Williston their home like him.

“I tried to find some idea that would invest the police officers we hire in the city of Williston,” Connolly said.

Connolly was searching for ways to make it affordable for officers to live in Williston when he came across real estate broker and TY Realty of North Florida owner Tina Yakel who offers the Homes for Heroes program.
Connolly used the program to help sell his wife's home in Gainesville and it only took 3 hours.

“That's pretty stunning, it really is,” Connolly said.

Yakel offers the Homes for Heroes program as a way to show her appreciation to people working as teachers, first responders, and veterans.

The program is operated by a charitable foundation and was created shortly after 9/11.

“I think in the way our culture is now nobody says thank you anymore,” Yakel said. “My company is TY Realty. Those are my initials but more importantly, it stands for thank you and I think that we as a generation need to thank people for what they do and so it's a way of just saying thank you."

Connolly hopes to have the same success in Williston.

"we could probably put a police officer and his family or a firefighter or a teacher or any of those people that are covered by this program into a home for substantially discounted price. sounds like a win-win to me.”

He wants the city to be a place an officer can call home.

“If they don’t get invested in the city, the grass starts to look greener some place else,” Connolly said. “I don’t want to be a training department. I want to be a department where police officers come and work and live and community-orient themselves and to do that it helps to have them living inside of the city.”