MONROE, CT — Books covered a table outside Norcom Mortgage on Saturday as donations for American Friends of Kenya continued to stack up throughout the day. The lending company used its re-grand opening celebration in Suite 101 at 731 Main St. to assist the organization that builds libraries in the African country.
“We’re raising money for the American Friends of Kenya,” said Audra Santos, branch manager of the lending company. “People donated books and businesses donated gift cards for raffle prizes.”
While she helped poor villages to build libraries on Saturday, Santos has been helping families to finance their homes for the past 23 years.
“I love watching someone buy their first home,” she said. “They’re so appreciative of the help. That’s what keeps me in this business.”
Prior to embarking on a career in the mortgage business, Santos worked as a supervisor in the marketing department for U.S. Surgical, a medical device company. While there, she decided to pursue her graduate degree.
“I got my Master’s in marketing management at Sacred Heart University,” said Santos, who grew up in Trumbull.
Santos earned straight A’s, so the medical device company paid for her education.
“I got out of corporate America and took the plunge 23 years ago,” she said. “I started working for a friend’s mortgage company in Southbury.”
Northeast Mortgage, an Arizona-based lending company, hired Santos to open branches. Around 2009, she opened a location in what is now Norcom’s space, Suite 101 at 731 Main St. in Monroe.
When Northeast Mortgage went out of business, Santos had a brief stint with Allied Mortgage before joining Norcom as a branch manager eight years ago. She is also vice president of its credit union division.
“I work with all their credit unions,” she said.
Aside from offering competitive rates, Santos puts an emphasis on the tagline under Norcom Mortgage’s sign: “Community Trust Lending Team.”
“We’re always helping everybody in our communities,” she said. “We offer 100 percent financing and down payment assistance.”
An official grand opening
Though Norcom has been in its Monroe space for eight years, Santos said it never had an official grand opening.
On Saturday, First Selectman Ken Kellogg, State Rep. Tony Scott, R-112th, Community and Economic Development Director William Holsworth and Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Ray Giovanni, who also chairs the Monroe Economic Development Commission, visited the mortgage office for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
They were joined by several chamber members.
“I was touched,” Santos said. “They gave little speeches.”
She said Giovanni, who is president of Union Savings Bank, sends mortgages her way when his bank cannot do them.
Saturday’s grand opening was a family-friendly event where children played games together, had face paintings and posed for photos with the Easter Bunny.
When an order of sandwiches from another vendor fell through, Santos said Sal’s Family Pizza supplied pies for the event.
Among the generous businesses donating gift certificates for raffles benefitting American Friends of Kenya were Bill’s Drive-In, Cardsmart, Terra Cafe. Mr. Mac’s Canteen, Marylou’s Ristorante and Monroe Nail Salon.
Stepney Elementary School students donated around 100 books to the fundraiser for Kenya, according to Santos.
“I love it,” she said of her Monroe location. “I live here in Monroe. My daughter goes to Stepney, I’m the PTA treasurer and a cheerleading coach for the Monroe Lions.”