KEESEVILLE Friends of the North Country urges homeowners in Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties who may be at risk of foreclosure to take the first step to avoid losing their biggest investment call for help. According to industry studies, more than half of homeowners facing foreclosure do not call for help when they begin to fall behind on their payments. However, the early stages of delinquency (late mortgage payments) are the most crucial the same studies show homeowners who are one or two payments behind and seek help are more likely to keep their homes than those who have fallen further behind on their payment schedule. Homeowners in Clinton, Franklin or Essex counties having trouble paying their mortgages are encouraged to call FONC at 1-888-355-3662 to receive foreclosure counseling. FONC is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified housing counseling agency. Counselors Melissa Furnia and Leah House are certified through NeighborWorks for foreclosure and homebuyer counseling, and all housing counseling services are offered free of charge. Many borrowers may be hesitant to call their bank because of embarrassment, fear, or lack of trust. FONC counselors may help alleviate this anxiety by serving as mediators between the borrower and lender. Lenders are often willing to work with a borrower to develop a plan of action designed to put the family back on the road to financial recovery. FONC provides homeownership education and housing counseling with a wide range of services for Clinton, Franklin and Essex county homeowners who are at risk of delinquency or foreclosure including face-to-face counseling on refinance options and rehab loans for repairs and maintenance. For more information about avoiding foreclosure, call FONC between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., weekdays, at 834-9606 or toll-free at 1-888-355-3662 or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Web site at www.friendsofthenorthcountry.org.