With foreclosures making headlines around the nation and consumer groups and lawmakers pointing the finger of blame at some lenders’ underwriting and origination practices, mortgage broker Michael Knight was looking for a way to demonstrate that many members of the profession not only follow a code of ethics, but are active volunteers in the communities they serve.

Not long before members of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) were to meet in Seattle for their annual meeting, Knight decided he’d like to sponsor an award honoring a mortgage broker whose conduct could put the lending industry in a more favorable light.

As the former president of the Colorado Association of Mortgage Brokers and a longtime NAMB member, Knight had the connections to get the ball rolling.

“I made a couple of phone calls to two past presidents, and said we ought to do everything we can to show there are good mortgage brokers out there,” Knight said. “They loved the idea.”

The chief executive officer of Vanguard Mortgage and Title in Littleton, Colo., Knight also provided $10,000 in grant money to accompany the award. The grant money is being furnished by the Vanguard Foundation, a nonprofit Knight established for at-risk youth, to help the winner further their community volunteer efforts.

With NAMB’s annual meeting looming, the call for nominations went out. Nominees had to meet a long list of eligibility requirements and criteria, including a commitment to volunteer service and giving within their communities, and membership and participation in NAMB.

Eleven nomination forms came back, and were scored independently by three judges. The names of the companies employing the nominees were whited out to prevent from influencing the judges’ decisions.

On Sunday in Seattle, the winner of the first Vanguard Mortgage & Title Trailblazer Award was announced: Linda MacCoy, the chief executive officer of Beaverton, Ore.-based First Independent Mortgage Group. MacCoy, who is also the director of Mortgage You Inc., an academy of lending and consumer education, was honored for her community involvement over the past 30 years.

MacCoy has conducted free training seminars for aspiring mortgage industry professionals at real estate schools and at Portland State University, as well as free homebuyer seminars within her community as part of a personal effort to decrease future mortgage forbearances.

As the founder of the Avian Protection League, a non-profit organization that works with abandoned parrots and other birds, MacCoy is also an advocate for animals who has spoken about animal rights and abuse through her local Humane Society.

MacCoy plans to create a non-profit arm of her training company, Mortgage You, to provide free financial literacy training for consumers and students at the high school level. She intends to partner with Money Smart, an adult education program of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) aimed at increasing financial literacy.

Knight said he was impressed by MacCoy’s accomplishments, and pleased that she’ll be putting the $10,000 grant award to use in a way that’s aligned with the Vanguard Foundation’s goal of helping at-risk youth.

“After reading (her nomination form), I said ‘Wow, she originates loans too, in her spare time?'” Knight said.

Although Knight was not involved in the judging – he said no Vanguard employee will ever be involved in selecting a winner – he did call finalists to discuss how they might use the grant award.

Next year, Knight said the call for nominations will probably go out 45 days before NAMB’s annual meeting, “so hopefully we’ll get a lot more” nominations.

Armand Cosenza – one of the former NAMB presidents who got behind Knight’s last-minute idea — said the award is “a great opportunity to demonstrate that there are people (in the lending industry) who give back, and that there are more good brokers than bad brokers.”

Cosenza noted that NAMB members pledge to follow a code of ethics, which stipulates that they conduct their business with honesty and integrity, provide accurate information in all advertisements, disclose financial interest they may have in collateral used to secure a loan, keep client’s information confidential, and comply with all laws and regulations.

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