Just In The Nick of Time

Grant saves Waco family’s home

By Pamela Bond

Waco Tribune-Herald

Aug. 9, 2007

When Tony Eggleston found out that heh ad chrono sarcoma bone cancer last July, his family knew they would face hard times ahead. Things only got worse in the winter when the family faced possible foreclosure on the Waco home where they have lived for 21⁄2 years.

“We contacted at least 30 different organizations with no results at all,” Eggleston said. “(I was) in a situation of a disease that has taken over and you can’t control that. And then not being able to get assistance, you fear losing your house and putting your family on the street.”

After weeks of calling potential sources for assistance, from Gov. Rick Perry to the American Cancer Society, the Egglestons finally heard some good news.

The family learned they were the first recipients of $3,000 from NeighborWorks Waco, a one-time emergency grant the nonprofit program gives to delinquent borrowers who face imminent foreclosure.

The program is designed to help borrowers bring their mortgages current, said Zach Carter, the HomeOwnership Center manager for NeighborWorks Waco.

The nonprofit group replaced the city of Waco as the administrators of the Foreclosure Emergency Assistance Program in February.

“They were the only ones that could help us,” said Michelle Eggleston, Tony’s wife. “We would have lost our house, no doubt. We have family that would have helped but they couldn’t help with the amount of money that we needed. Then we would have been homeless,and that would have been really bad with three children.”

Families must meet certain requirements to apply for the grant, such as living in Waco city limits, having up-to-date homeowner’s insurance and taxes and making 80 percent or less of the median income limit for Waco.

For example, the median annual income limit for a family of four in Waco is $50,400, so to be eligible for the program, a family of four would have to have an income of $40,320 or less, Carter said. To apply for the program, the Egglestons had to provide financial and medical information and met with Carter five times before their application was reviewed.

“We had to show them that I had some illness that wasn’t allowing me to work and I’m not just some bum,” Tony said.

An approval board considered the Egglestons’ application and approved it. Six weeks passed from the time the family first called NeighborWorks to when they received the check, but the application only took a week to be approved once it was submitted.

Michelle Eggleston said the hardest part was compiling tax returns, bank statements and especially medical records for the application. The program also includes one-on-one counseling and a post-purchase class.

In November, Tony Eggleston had surgery to replace tumorous bone in his right arm with a titanium bar.

“That was the largest tumor the doctor had ever seen in all his years of practice,” Tony said. “It went almost the entire length of the bone, from my shoulder almost to the elbow. We actually thought I was going to lose the arm. The doctor told me before I went into surgery that ‘you need to be prepared for when you wake up that you might not have an arm.’ ”

Tony Eggleston kept his arm, but he was unable to go back to work. His job at Oak Farms Dairy required him to lift heavy weight, and after the surgery, his arm could only lift up to 30 pounds. That’s when the Egglestons started searching for help.

“There needs to be some more programs for people who do get sick and still try to provide forvtheir family,” Tony said. “You hear about the homeless, but there isn’t anything to help people in a situation that they can’t control. Of course, NeighborWorks was a Band-Aid on the situation.”

Carter said that there were 62 foreclosures last month in McLennan County, which usually has 50 to 70 a month. NeighborWorks, Habitat for Humanity and the Waco Community Development Corporation provide foreclosure prevention services such as budget counseling, lender mediation, refinance counseling and recommendations for social services.

Since January, NeighborWorks has assisted 20 families facing foreclosures.

“Several of these have had successful outcomes, meaning the owner was able to keep the home,” Carter said. “The organization is able to help these families who don’t qualify for the grant in other ways through mediation with the lender, and the grant money is only one tool in the arsenal to fight foreclosure. We must always look for other ways that we can help to reach a workable solution and help the homeowner keep the home.”

Funding for the program comes through the city of Waco as a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. NeighborWorks plans to help 10 more families before the year is over and will seek additional funding for next year.

“There’s no shame in asking for help because if people don’t know that you need it, they can’t help you,” Michelle Eggleston said. “It may seem harder to have to go to someone and say I can’t pay my bills, but there are resources out there to help you to do that.”