Serving Those Who Serve: JJ Montgomery's Story

JJ Montgomery is a proud native of his hometown of Hazard, Kentucky. Hazard is located in the heart of Central Appalachia, a region that has faced economic adversity for decades, largely due to the waning coal industry. It’s an area plagued with a lack of career diversity, dependence on a mono-economy, and a broken housing market. However, like many others from the area, JJ tends to search for and focus on the positive. 

"Living in a small community like this one, you are able to overcome a lot of the troubles and trials it brings with it," JJ said. "You know everyone, everyone knows you, and being so closely knit, we all look out for one another. Hazard is so much more than just a town or city; it is truly a community of folks helping one another." 

Making his home in a small community in the Promise Zone, JJ keeps his priorities and beliefs close to his heart. He believes in family, community, and service to others. As a single father, a devoted son, and safety officer for the Hazard Police Department (HPD), JJ has spent the majority of his life helping others. When it was JJ’s turn to ask for help, his community didn’t let him down. 

Residing in a small one-bedroom apartment with both his daughter and mother, JJ had to live conservatively just to get by each month. Not sure how he could change his future, he only dreamed of providing a better life for his family. Struggling with both rent increases and high electric costs, JJ wondered if a better home would improve their lives. 

JJ reached out to the Housing Development Alliance (HDA), which has long had deep roots in the community, and was full of hope as he walked through the door to inquire about the agency’s Homeownership Program. Thanks to his strong and consistent work history, some credit counseling from Redbud Financial Alternatives (the CDFI at HDA), and help from HUD’s USDA Rural Development HOME program, JJ found the help he needed.

HDA’s Housing Counselor talked with JJ to begin understanding his needs. Soon, HDA staff began their work locating land for the family, drawing up his energy-efficient floor plan, and beginning construction on what would soon become his and his daughter’s very own home.   

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Above: the building of JJ’s home, which involved HDA crews, volunteers, and JJ himself, who contributed over 100 hours of sweat equity. JJ has never forgotten what it means to be from a small community. Playing on various sports teams in high school, he was taught to take pride in himself and in his hometown. JJ is proud of his dedication to the community, and he’s overjoyed to have a home that, in his words, “no one can ever take from me.”

After a few months and help from local volunteers, the home was complete! JJ and his daughter were ecstatic when they received the keys to their new home – a beautiful two-story, energy-efficient, high quality, and well-built home located within the community he loves.

JJ had done it! He had set his mind to providing a better life for his family, and when he looked to his community for help and received it, his dreams became reality. 

Since moving into his new home, JJ has continued holding his priorities dear. His newfound stability through homeownership has allowed him to take the next step in his career. Currently enrolled in the Police Academy, JJ continues to take care of his family and community and will soon expand his service to others as he lives out his lifelong goal of becoming a police officer in his hometown.

More proud than ever, JJ tells us, “This is a place where my daughter can run and play, a place that she can be proud of, a place that she can always call home. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me and my family. I am so thankful."

*Fahe, Inc. also covered this story here

UPDATE: Wonder where JJ is now? Find out here

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