A lot has been written about the plight of Patricia Roberts and her family here in Atlanta. You can read about it here, here, and here, although here is a summary version, courtesy of Dave Walters at TechDrawl:
… a most unfortunate story this week: the foreclosure and eviction of a Lithonia family whose son was the first Georgia casualty during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Jamaal Addison was killed during an ambush on March 2003, and the Lithonia branch of the United States Post Office has been renamed in his honor. And in a miserable twist of fate, the family is set to be evicted on the very day set aside to honor Spc. Addison, Monday August 2nd.
Above: Patricia Roberts (R), mother of US Army Specialist Jamaal Addison, mourns along with other family members during his funeral at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Georgia on Monday. Addison was killed when his unit was ambushed by Iraqi forces on March 23. Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution
There has been some stuff written about what we’re trying to do to help the family. While I appreciate the effort to spread the word, it isn’t about me, or some kind of magical thing I’ve done. There were/are a lot more people involved in this. I just made some phone calls, really. Here is the story.
After reading Bo Emerson’s AJC article which shed light on his family’s difficult situation, I decided to see what we could do to help – being a vet myself, and having kids of my own, it just hit me hard. After some super-sleuthing by Robert Shoe, my fellow ex-Army bizdev guy at StarPound, we were able to track Ms. Roberts down and talk with her about her situation. I had several different (very emotional) conversations with her, and I will tell you, Patricia Roberts is one of the most wonderful, salt-of-the-earth people you will ever meet.
My immediate concern was three-fold: 1) secure adequate housing for the family, so they wouldn’t have to worry about that, 2) keep the family together in the process (they already had to split up among relatives and friends, including Ms. Robert’s own mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s), and 3) ensure that Little Jamaal (his young son, who was only 2 when his father died) would be settled in time to start school. After this, we could knuckle down and help Ms. Roberts secure new employment (and we’re already making progress on that front).
I had been in contact with my wife, who had shared some of this with our own four year old daughter, Katie. When I got home that night, Katie was full of questions.
I tried to navigate the endless barrage of 1-800 numbers, customer service agents, and loss mitigation “experts” from Suntrust (the foreclosing bank), but basically ended up wasting 3 or 4 hours on the phone. I “get” that they are a business, and at the end of the day, they have policies which need to be upheld. But when someone calls offering a financial solution in a situation like this, I would have expected to be received a bit more warmly, and that’s all I’ll say about it. We could have gotten her current with her mortgage payments, bought it out of foreclosure for her, etc. But, no dice. Suffice it to say, I knew we had to take a different path.
To their credit, Suntrust at least eventually gave her family an extension on when they had to be out of their current home. Of course, this was after they got hammered by Senators, the folks at Ft. McPherson, and other folks in the community. But still … it does help.
In the meantime, Mike Blake and the great folks at HA&W stepped up to offer tax/accounting advice on how to treat the property if we were able to work a deal with Suntrust. Even though we chose a different path, they were absolutely awesome.
I immediately called my good friend and VetLoop co-founder Jason Jones of Cresa Partners here in Atlanta. For those that know Jason, well, I don’t need to say anything else. Jason is a former naval aviator who ran missions off the carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. He is also one of the most charitable and good-natured guys I’ve ever had the privilege of calling a friend. Jason stepped up and got involved with us, as I knew he would.
One of our customers, Doug Ingram (DHL), was in our office working with our team on a project. After mentioning the story to him, Doug stepped up and got involved as well. On the side, Doug dabbles in rental properties. He had an idle house that happened to be sitting on 6 acres of land he bought down in Fairburn, just south of Atlanta. He graciously offered to let the Roberts’ family use the house until they could get back on their feet. Several of us offered to pay her rent there, should she decide to stay longer (a point that Doug readily dismissed as unnecessary). One evening, we went down to the house to check it out. After spending a few hours on site, it was evident that we were going to need a veritable army of people to help get the house to a livable state. We lined up a bunch of really great friends (aka the StarPound Flag Football team, Nest Construction, and some other folks) to come down on the weekend and do an overhaul.
I was thrilled that we had pulled together a solution for the family.
However, the next morning, after further reflection, we just didn’t feel good about putting her in the house – it just needed too much work. The house was built in 1958 and had seen better days. So, another path would have to be found. I was reminded of one of the many bits of wisdom my late father shared with me growing up. He used to tell me that “the worst feeling in the world is wanting so desperately to help someone, and feeling powerless to do so.” I was starting to feel that way a bit.
Sometimes, the easiest solution is right in front of you. Thanks to my good friend Mike Blake for slapping me silly and telling me what should have been obvious. We’d raise enough money to cover the family’s rent in a decent rental home here in Atlanta say, for a year – plenty of time for her to get back on her feet, and take care of her family. We’ve already identified several properties that might be a good match for the family. We all started throwing money into the hat, and very quickly found ourselves with $4,000. And this is what I need help with from the community out there.
Please. If you can contribute to the effort here, please donate to the fund below, which will help provide a longer-term solution for the family:
JAMAAL ADDISON II MEMORIAL FUND
Routing #: 061092387
Account #: 4901323066
I never knew SPC Jamaal Addison, although I suppose one day I will get to meet him. He paid the ultimate price to give us the freedom to talk about startups, technology, and other things that don’t really matter at the end of the day. And his family needs our help. Please help us.
UPDATE: Benefit concert
UPDATE: I inadvertently omitted a digit in the account # for the fund – corrected now – if you have contributed, PLEASE verify that your money went into the right account. So sorry!