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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/30/09

How we built an emergency network of compassion in less than three weeks

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Exactly three weeks ago, I learned that Debra South Jones was about to be evicted from her home. I had just that weekend finished reading Little Pink House, the story behind the extremely unpopular 2005 Supreme Court decision on eminent domain.  So, my head was already awash with images of an uncaring, bureaucratic government, and outgunned, powerless homeowners.

Debra and I connected a few months ago when I was doing research on grass roots efforts in the Gulf Coast Region, post-Katrina.  I had already written an article about her and her combination food bank/soup kitchen Just the Right Attitude.  Hearing of her predicament, I formulated an emergency appeal which I posted at OpEdNews Monday morning, March 10th. It also went out to everyone on my email list.  

Good news! We successfully raised $2300 and Debra’s tax bill was paid on time, in full. She will not be evicted. We also built a network of compassion.

On the other hand, the bureaucracy in Ascension Parish, Louisiana provided the Jones family neither comfort nor assistance in their crisis. The local authorities scheduled the eviction and sale of the Jones home by public auction, regardless of mitigating circumstances.

Let’s not forget the Times Picayune either, where Debra and her husband Lawrence worked a combined total of forty years.  The newspaper was aware of the Jones’s predicament. I know this because I called their office and emailed virtually every name on their letterhead, from the publisher on down. I didn’t even receive an apologetic “You know, the newspaper business is in a bad way these days. We’re very sorry about the Jones’s situation. Here’s 50 bucks.”  Or even “It’s a jungle out there. Good luck.” Nada.  

A few days later, I called back and left a message that my readers at OpEdNews wanted to know how the newspaper planned to help their loyal, former employees; I thought maybe playing the Bad Publicity card might jiggle loose a comment. Nope.  Debra, however, was not surprised.  She worked in Accounts Receivable for sixteen years, yet expected nothing, not even a kind word, from them. How sad that she was right.  

Who are all those donors and where did they come from?

The majority of the donors responding to my appeal were people I actually know:  friends, family, colleagues.  But, there were also plenty of people that I barely know  or have never met. Locals who have participated in the clothing drive I have been running since Christmas for the soup kitchen where I volunteer. Election Integrity activists across the country, OpEdNews readers, and those who have volunteered in the Gulf Region and have seen conditions first hand.  Friends of friends, acquaintances of acquaintances.  I’m grateful for the computer technology that made it possible to get the word out widely and efficiently.

I was really curious about those compassionate strangers - who were they and where did they come from? One OpEdNews reader sent me a message which reads, in part:

    I was ecstatic to know that Obama is giving us all an extra $25.00 in unemployment through the stimulus bill and I went ahead and sent it to your friend. Please let me know if she was able to save her home. She does sound quite impressive and I just couldn't sit here and do nothing after reading about her.
Another total stranger responded this way: “Thank you for this information, the links and your caring. It is unfortunate but I have no bucks to help this wonderful person.”
I would have understood if he had stopped there.  Instead, he continued, laying out his strategy:
However, I will begin to make some calls tomorrow.  I hope others who have no other way of helping this person will join me. I will find all numbers and emails of officials at the Louisiana website and contact them.  I am not a constituent but if enough calls come in from out of state, they will take notice ... If a lot of people do this, things can easily happen ...
We could learn a lot from this guy.  He makes a pit bull look like a slacker.

It took a team to solve Debra’s fix. I was the catalyst.  But just getting the word out was not enough. Every donor that responded was absolutely necessary in saving Debra’s home. And, together, we achieved our objective.

Debra’s house is safe. People are out there, willing to get involved.  And I’m heartened and relieved. No corporations, foundations or big mucky-mucks participated in this effort. Gov. Jindal didn’t step forward; the Times Picayune certainly didn’t. The unbeatable combination?  The power of the pen plus people caring about one another. A group of average people with big hearts and plenty of worries of our own, we worked together towards a common goal. 

Thanks to all of you who participated. This project ended on a high note, an affirmation beautiful to behold.  I admit now that I doubted we could pull it off, and I lost a lot of sleep over it.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, Debra felt the same. I’ll give her the last word. 
    I received so many beautiful cards and notes saying ‘Keep up the good work,’ ‘God will see you through,’ ‘I am glad we could help.’  Just God bless everybody who helped us with donations, prayers, inspirational words of wisdom, and just for sharing with my family and myself.
To that I say, Amen.


Thank you, Sally Castleman and Jim Fadiman, for your pruning.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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