Angels Amid Foreclosed Homes and Vultures
Many foreclosed homes were produced by vultures -- those that made improbable home loans possible just to get the commission fees.
And now, foreclosed homes are again producing vultures in various colors:
- those charging fees upfront promising loan modifications that are never delivered
- those collecting rents and not telling renters they will be evicted within the week because the properties are already foreclosed
- those buying foreclosed homes and evicting families without warning or allowance
But amid these vultures are many angels, most of whom we will never know because they help and then fly away quietly.
There are three angels that I've read about, and it's a nice feeling being able to help spread their stories.
- 1. Chris Meek of Stamford, Connecticut
- 2. Jeff Waters of Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- 3. Marilyn Mock of Rockwall, Texas
Chris Meek of Stamford, Connecticut
The image that comes to mind if I think of a Wall Street hotshot is that of Michael Douglas, playing the greedy Gordon Gekko in the film "Wall Street" and saying the words Greed Is Good.
But now there's another image that covers Douglas from time to time -- that of Chris Meek. I first read about Meek in April when he organized an event in Stamford, Connecticut so that delinquent homeowners can meet with representatives of their banks and negotiate an affordable payment plan so they can save their homes from foreclosure.
Who was Chris Meek at that time? He was a top trader at Goldmach Sachs, and the thought of organizing the event just popped up as he was talking with his fellow traders at a bar in Manhattan. His colleagues even made a bet he wouldn't be able to carry out his plan.
But to his friends' surprise, Meek was able to convince HSBC, People's United Bank, New Alliance Bank, Webster Bank and Freedom Mortgage to send their reps to the event. Soon, these friends also began helping, and nonprofits in the area started taking notice and joined.
When the foreclosure prevention session ended, 36 homeowners had their mortgages modified and their homes saved. A follow-up resulted in 5 more homeowners helped, and the next version of the event yielded 17 more families that got modification help.
In the next months that followed, Meek followed his heart and stepped up his passion to help, launching the nonprofit Start Now! with help from his social and business network.
Start Now! has been registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and its goal is to help families and individuals become self-sufficient.
The nonprofit will still keep on helping homeowners save their homes from foreclosure. But it will also now address one of the major roots of the problem of foreclosures -- unemployment.
Recently, the nonprofit has launched a job placement program. This month, a series of job re-training and job certificate programs have been scheduled.
Meek has also launched SoldierSocks.com, another nonprofit devoted to helping American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. This program has already sent a ton of tube socks that soldiers can use to protect themselves from rough terrain and baby wipes to clean themselves.
Both of his nonprofits have attracted attention from business supporters. And if you also want to help, you can visit the web sites to look at what Meek has been doing for others.
Jeff Waters of Fort Lauderdale, Florida
I found Waters' story when I was surfing cheap Florida foreclosed homes.
While others were snapping up cheap foreclosures for quick resale and quick profits, Jeff Waters and his fellow investors were buying mortgage notes at deep discounts and then contacting the owners so they can negotiate affordable monthly payments and help the families save their homes.
Just like Meeks, Waters was also from the financial world -- from investment bank Bear Stearns. But Bear Stearns collapsed last year, pushing Waters to find his own calling.
He soon discovered distressed mortgages and foreclosed homes, but instead of making quick profits, he decided he can make profits and help families at the same time. The name of his company -- Giving Tree Development -- says it all.
Waters mentions that when he knocks on doors, the families find it hard to believe that the man at the door is willing to help them save their homes.
Marilyn Mock of Rockwall, Texas
Among the three stories here, Mock's story has been the most blogged about because Mock has been featured on several television shows, including Oprah, and on the magazine People.
What's especially amazing about Marilyn Mock is the spontaneity of what she did. No planning, no considering of what might turn bad, she just helped.
In November 2008, Mock accompanied her son to a foreclosure auction and sat down beside Tracy Orr, who soon cried as the bidding began. When Mock learned that Orr's house was among those to be auctioned off, instinctively she wanted to help. When the bidding ended, it was Mock who got Orr's house at $30,000, even if at that time she was still thinking how she will produce the cash.
But Mock and her family owned a rock yard. Mock decided then to mortgage her dump truck to pay for the house and Orr will make affordable monthly payments to Mock.
The quickness of Mock's decision to help in a big way, even if she was not as rich as those really rich, was perhaps what attracted the attention of many, including Oprah.
Because of the high number of people who contacted her for help after her story was aired, she established the Foreclosure Angel Foundation. As of date, she has helped save a lot of homes from foreclosure, with help from donors.