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?I ... took that key and opened the door'

By Ed Brock

It got down to Bryant Sidney, the 38th out of more than 100 contestants for a new, free home in Rex.

The fishbowl full of keys, only one of which would unlock the door, was held in front of him. Sidney drew well.

"I just went up and took that key and opened the door," Sidney said. "It was a blessing."

Sidney, 37, his 33-year-old wife Tabitha Sidney and their sons, 13-year-old Roderick and 14-year-old DeAngelo, will be moving into the house in Waggoner Place subdivision off Rex Road at the end of the month. They closed the deal Friday.

"The house looks good," Roderick said.

The Sidneys are the first in what Community Home Loans owner Anthony Thornton plans to be a long list of people to receive free houses in the Smyrna-based mortgage company's annual contest.

"We try to do something every year to give something back to the community," said Thornton, who described Community Home Loans as "Christian owned."

Bryant Sidney said he heard about the contest on a radio station and entered through the station's Web site. Then he heard a DJ call his name on air.

"You had 20 minutes to call," Sidney said. "Fortunately I was at work listening to the radio and so I called back."

Sidney also received $104 when he qualified for the contest. The family was so excited that DeAngelo put a picture of the house on the refrigerator and told his mother "that's our house."

On June 7 he joined the other contestants at the house for the drawing of the key.

But the $137,000, 1,700-square-foot, four-bedroom house built by GT Communities of Jonesboro wasn't all the Sidney's won.

"We put in about $46,000 worth of furniture," Thornton said.

Along with the furniture from Rooms-to-Go, the house came with a home theater system from H.H. Gregg. The house is valued at about $175,000 with the furnishings.

The house, a compact two-story, wood frame and brick building, sits in an area of the small subdivision that is still under construction. The furniture includes an ornately carved four-post bed, dining and living room set.

Tabitha Sidney said she doesn't plan to redecorate.

"I like the whole house," Sidney said.

Insurance from Nationwide Insurance was also provided free.

All the Sidneys will have to pay is the property tax, Thornton said.

They may also have to pay a little more for gasoline since Bryant Sidney will have to commute to his job as a warehouse foreman in Marietta while Tabitha Sidney will have to drive to Lawrenceville for her job with a uniform company there. But it's not that far, Bryant Sidney said.

As for their house in Decatur, Bryant Sidney said they've been planning to move, anyway.

"We were just looking for a change for our kids," Sidney said.

It will actually be a return to Clayton County for Bryant Sidney. He lived on Upper Riverdale Road in the early 1990s.

The fact that the change will also mean going to a new school doesn't bother Roderick.

"My cousins stay down there," Roderick said.

Thornton said that the next house giveaway would be at this same time next year.