Christmas came early for one East Tennessee family buying their first home.

The Hughes family received an extra big blessing from Homes for Heroes and two East Tennessee real estate agents who wanted their first Christmas in their new home to be special.

Nikki Moore and Mandy Hembree are real estate agents for Realty Executives Associates that work with Homes for Heroes.

According to its website, Homes for Heroes, Inc. is a network of affiliate real estate specialists and local business affiliates that are committed to providing easy ways for the heroes of our nation to save on a home, and every day home-related purchases. It was established after 9/11 to give back to firefighters, law enforcement, military, healthcare workers, EMS, and teachers.

Moore and Hembree have been working with the Hughes family for about a year to help Gary, his wife Jessica, and their daughters, Hannah and Baylee, find their perfect first home. After a lot of searching, the Hughes family was ready to close on their home, but Moore and Hembree wanted to do more to make the holidays memorable for them.

"He [Gary] is such a hard worker," Moore said. "He basically has been working so hard to get him and his wife and his two girls into their first purchased home."

Gary is going on nine years in the military. He's served in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, which qualifies him for the Homes for Heroes program.

To ease the stress of buying a home around the holidays and give back to a hardworking family, Moore and Hembree nominated the Hughes' for the Homes for Heroes 12 Christmas Miracles.

"They're just so giving and loving, and they have two sweet little girls," Moore said.

The Hughes family was selected as one of 12 families nationwide to receive a Christmas miracle.

Homes for Heroes donated $500 to the family. Moore said the family will also receive $700 back for every $100,000 spent on a home through the program.

Even with the extra cash that was donated, Moore and Hembree still wanted to do more for a family they have grown close to over the last year, so they asked local businesses to get involved.

"Maryville is an amazing community, and there have been so many sponsors," Hembree said. "And we have just had so many donate money, gift cards, gifts."

The result was a donated Christmas tree filled with cash, gift cards, and presents underneath totaling more than $2,000.

"Purchasing a home is stressful anyway, and especially at the holidays, so we just really hope that this blesses them," Hembree added.

The Hughes family came over to their new home Tuesday night for the final walkthrough, but they had no idea about the surprise waiting on the other side of the door when they pulled up.

Moore and Hembree were there to greet them with the surprise of it all.

"It's wonderful," Jessica said. "To think that there are people out there that care so much, it's just a wonderful feeling."

Gary said he is thankful for the surprise, especially after the difficulty they faced in finding the right home.

"We both had to get decent jobs to try and get a house," Gary said. "We thought we were going to get one, but we always fell short. Now we are where we are because of you all."

The couple watched as their girls opened presents left by Santa, who the girls claimed came a few weeks early. Then Gary and Jessica took time to open the letters and gift cards left on the tree through other people's generosity.

"It takes so much pressure off, so much pressure off," Jessica said. "It's going to help so much."

Now the family can focus on moving into their new home and making new memories as a family this Christmas.

Hembree and Moore would like to thank Maryville Home Depot, West Knoxville Chili's, Alcoa Chick-Fil-A, Alcoa Lowe's, Quick Fix Coffee, Beatuycounter by Lisa Washburn, Norwex by Natalie Jenkins Rice, Corner Market, Adam Moore with Movement Mortgage Homes for Heroes Affiliated Loan Officer, Majestic Homes Inspection, TRISTAR PUBLIC SAFETY, Maryville Alcoa Christian Shops, Lynn's Discounts, Hembree Builder's LLC, and many more for making this Christmas miracle happen.

Realty Executives Associates can be contacted at 865-983-0011