In the days leading up to a rejuvenated Cinco de Mayo celebration, the budding group organizing it is turning its sights on other missions. On Thursday, it was housing.

The newly formed Cultural Empowerment and Development Foundation held a free, all-day homebuying seminar, including a series of lectures on renting versus buying a home in Garden City, financing the purchase, starting up a local business, home and business insurance, home and cyber security and fire safety.

The goal, said organizer and Cultural Empowerment co-founder Liset Cruz, is to break a cycle of people in town being stuck in mobile homes or rentals, and arm them with information that could help them invest in a home, should they want to.

“We want to empower people to learn … There’s people out there that want to buy, but it’s always taking that first step,” Cruz said.

Early sessions saw speakers from MBA Real Estate and First National Bank break down the pros and cons of buying and renting, and the tricks and logistics that pepper the homebuying process.

MBA representatives reviewed what was inspected from buyers and sellers, including bank pre-approval processes, inspections and the actual home search and closure process.

Since realtors are paid by the sellers, their services are free to buyers, and they can connect them to local inspectors and guide them along the legal and financial processes, they said.

They and representatives from First National Bank reviewed the costs that are wrapped up in the initial home buying process, like inspection fees, insurance and security deposit-like earnest money, many of which can go toward the ultimate down payment.

Representatives from First National Bank broke down the steps to start a successful business start-up, from researching the local need for a business idea, creating a plan and building finances, choosing a business structure, securing necessary licenses and seeking out employees, among other steps.

The early sessions during the workday were sparsely attended, but guests showed up with notes and questions. Abby Franco is already a homeowner but wanted to learn more about managing rental properties so she can afford to go back to school. Alfonzo Henriquez has lived in Garden City seven years and was eager to buy his first home.

Lydia Gould, a young professional looking to put down roots in Garden City, was ready to invest in a home, as well. She said she came for the earlier sessions, but stuck through a lesson on starting up a business out of curiosity — a second job could be a way to supplement her single income, especially considering Garden City’s costly housing market.

All were glad for the free information, they said. It was what they needed and wanted and they wished there were more like it.

The series was about more than individuals, however, Cruz said. Encouraging people to buy homes creates personal stake and investment in their community, and an incentive to stick around. It brings stability to their children and growth to Garden City itself.

“If we could encourage more people to buy and settle down, hopefully in 20 years, 30 years, our population has grown, and Kansas is no longer a flyover state. But, hey, fly into Garden City. That’s my vision,” Cruz said.


Contact Amber Friend at