Real Life Stories
The Bardwell Family
ATLANTA, GA- The foreclosure notice was the last thing the Bardwells needed. They were already struggling financially after Mark lost his income following a traffic accident injury that left him unable to work for six months.
Diane got a job, and Mark eventually returned to work, but his employer cut salaries as the economy faltered. Not only did the Bardwells have a mortgage to pay, but there were medical and other care expenses for their two children. Their son, Caleb, suffers from severe learning disabilities. Chloe, meanwhile, has an immune system disorder that results in hospitalization a couple times each year.
With bills mounting, the Bardwells fell behind in their mortgage payments. Diane got a second job. They borrowed money from relatives and liquidated Mark’s 401k account. The couple handed the funds over to the bank, which promptly took the money and immediately threatened to foreclose anyway. The Bardwells were despondent.
“We had an overwhelming sense of helplessness and hopelessness,” Diane explained. “The thought of uprooting a special needs child from his home was unbearable, so we pressed on.”
Then Diane heard about Operation Restoration. She spoke with Anne Batte, the organization’s director, just days before the final foreclosure date.
“Unlike the other non-profit agencies we talked to, this was different,” said Bardwell. “She really listened. That’s when the healing begins, when someone says ‘I’m going to walk this journey with you.’”
Upset with how the bank had handled the Bardwell’s case, Batte wrote the bank’s executive officers, the media and the White House. Suddenly, on the last day before foreclosure, the formerly uncooperative bank was now willing to renegotiate the mortgage on favorable terms that enabled the family to keep their home.
Bardwell recalled the moment. “I looked up at the sky, and it was blue. I just stood there and gave thanks,” she said.
The Bardwells aren’t alone. Debra Brown lost her 17-year job with Ford when the plant that employed her in metropolitan Atlanta was closed. Her husband worked the couple’s small electrical contracting business, but payment for major contracts was still pending. So the bank initiated foreclosure.
The Brown Family
Brown contacted the Hope Now Alliance, a nationally-funded organization established to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. But she wasn’t impressed with the results.
“They took me through the process I had already done on my own,” Brown explained, “and I kept waiting for them to do something different.” But, she maintains, the HNA counselor merely collected information and forwarded it to the lender—a fruitless exercise that provided no meaningful assistance. Desperate, she contacted her Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss’ office, and was ultimately referred to Operation Restoration.
Brown recalled being angry and suspicious. “I wanted to know what they [Operation Restoration] were going to do differently,” she said. “I broke down crying because I was so fragile.”
But, according to Brown, “The difference was empathy. Somebody finally got it. It felt like a weight was lifted. I didn’t get that from the national organization.”
Operation Restoration provided real help, Brown maintained. They walked her through the various requests from the lender, helping her respond to each one with appropriate information to help avoid foreclosure. In her case, the key was showing the couple how to document their pending income from the business.
As for advice to other homeowners facing foreclosure, Brown warns “how emotionally exhausting this whole process is. It’s not for the average person—don’t try to go it alone without real advocacy. More people will lose their homes in epidemic proportions if they don’t understand this.”
Jon Snow - U.S.Veteran
Jon Snow, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from medical and service-related stress issues, agrees. After being out of work for three years, he had used up his savings, and his stress symptoms reappeared as the situation worsened.
“I had reached the end,” said Snow. “I felt shut down, paralyzed. I had given up hope.”
A friend referred him to Operation Restoration, and Snow found support.
“She [Batte] rejuvenated me, lit a fire. She wouldn’t let me give up,” he recalled.
Batte helped Snow with his resume, and he soon landed a job as a furniture salesman, where he is still employed today. Batte also helped connect Snow with resources at the Veteran’s Administration and advocated for him with his lender. Thanks to Operation Restoration, he did not lose his home.
“It’s the difference between ‘everything’s lost’ and ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’” Snow reflected. “If it wasn’t for this organization, I would not have return address labels today.”
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- Anne Batte, Executive Director