DERBY, Conn. (WTNH) – A Derby woman opened her door to a pleasant surprise Tuesday morning. Her mortgage company delivered a gift to thank her and her family for their community service.

To keep it a surprise, several mortgage bankers wound up trying to sneak up on that Derby home. Of course, it is tough to be sneaky while carrying presents and a giant novelty check. Folks from Envoy Mortgage want to surprise that homeowner with what they call the Gift of Home.

“Gift of Home is a program that Envoy started because of the pandemic, and it’s something just to give back to the community,” explained Melissa Mason, Envoy’s Fairfield Branch Manager. “We know that many people had a hard 2020.”

Envoy is a Houston-based mortgage bank, and they are surprising one client a month. The September recipient is Irana McNish. She works in health care and recently graduated from nursing school. She opened a gift box and read the note inside.

“We are paying your next mortgage payment including tax,” McNish read. “On behalf of Envoy team members, we appreciate you.” Then she yelled in surprise and joy.

McNish bought her home on a quiet street in Derby last fall after 15 years in public housing.

“Buying a house and saving our money and moving out of housing is everything,” said McNish. “Just walking in your own door, owning something, it’s yours.”

It’s not just Irana who benefits from this. She shares the house with her grown children. Her daughter, who is a schoolteacher, and her son who was in the Marine Corps, but now is studying criminal justice. So, all three are giving back to the community in their own way.

That’s why Envoy picked the McNish family for this month’s surprise. They are going to keep giving away free months to people who got mortgages in 2020, people like Irana, who could just use a break.

“It was so much to happen all over a year,” McNish said. “So much happened. Graduation, buying a house, the pandemic.”

And now the giant check. A reminder of how much good is still happening during the pandemic.