Thursday, April 9, 2009

It Takes a Village to Stay Out of Foreclosure: The Saga of Molly Secours

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 6:01 AM

click to enlarge molly.jpg
Pith in the Wind has been closely following the story of local filmmaker, writer and activist Molly Secours, who--after a year-and-a-half battle with uterine cancer, which included grueling radiation and chemotherapy treatments--found herself in a five-month struggle to refinance her 9.8% mortgage to avoid the foreclosure looming ever closer. For a more in-depth look at the Saga of Molly Secours, here's Part One, Part Two and Part Three. Molly's life of the past two years has been rich with irony, mostly at her expense. Here's a woman who dedicates her life to helping society's most vulnerable citizens by (among many other projects) making the documentary film The Faces of TennCare: Putting a Human Face on Tennessee's Health Care Failure. Then shortly after, she is stricken with uterine cancer and learns the hard truths that her film's subjects knew about all too well. The irony got deeper when she tried to refinance her exorbitant 9.8% mortgage at a more reasonable rate. She met deaf ears from First Franklin Loan and its owner Bank of America, was continually stonewalled, and was just a couple of weeks away from foreclosure--even though these banks were given stimulus money for these very purposes. And even though Molly could afford to pay a 5% mortgage. Well, there's good news for Molly. She's been offered a 5% modification loan--but only after numerous stories in the media and intervention by politicians on Molly's behalf. And though she's ecstatic that she will be able to keep her house, she knows there are many more people like her who don't have so many friends at their backs. After the jump, in her own words, Molly gives the rundown of her story, and offers words of advice to those struggling to avoid foreclosure:
Five-and-a-half months and billions of stimulus package dollars later, I was finally offered a 30-year 5% fixed-rate modification loan from First Franklin Loan Services, owned by Bank of America. This is the good news--for me. The bad news is that it took Herculean efforts by Congressman Jim Cooper (and his amazing staff), nearly a dozen articles in the press, including the Nashville Scene, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal and others, as well as a Channel 2 television new story and literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of friends and strangers. It took all of them pummeling Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis and First Franklin Loan Services with calls and emails advocating on my behalf to finally convince First Franklin to concede that yes, indeed, because of the Obama stimulus package, my 9.8% adustable rate could indeed be cut almost in half. As grateful as I am for my hard-won battle, I am disheartened and devastated for the millions of others facing foreclosure who do not have the ear of a caring congressman, dedicated members of the press and countless friends around the country who are willing to "act up" on their behalf. Five-and-a-half months of battling with a mortgage company that practices evasion--if not full-scale entrapment--takes a mental, spiritual and physical toll. And as someone less than a year in remission from cancer, it was challenging. If you are African American or Latino, there is significant evidence to suggest that you have been specifically targeted by the sub-prime mortgage lenders and will fall harder, quicker and more silently. And then there are hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) who are also battling serious medical conditions as well as job losses who are catapulting through the cracks every day. Believe me, I'm getting phone calls and emails asking for help. What I have to offer is simple, yet unsatisfactory. If you have a sub-prime mortgage, are able and willing to pay something and believe you fit within the guidelines outlined by the Obama plan, don't believe the customer service rep who says, "You don't qualify" or "we don't have to comply with the Obama plan." I, too, was told these things. Do not give up when the notice of foreclosure arrives in the mail. Tell your story to anyone who will listen. If you don't get results, keep calling up the chain of command and keep telling your story. Call your state representatives. Get your friends to call representatives. Let them tell your story. Find out the names and email addresses of bank executives and yes, you guessed it, tell them your story. Write a public letter to Obama and pray to God someone at the local paper publishes it, and then forward it to everyone you know. And remember to always keep mentioning the executives at the company in question, because that is what they are paid for. Tell your story and ask others to help. But do not, repeat, do NOT give up until the voice inside whispers that it is time to let go. There is no shame in facing difficult times. But there is shame in taking advantage of those facing difficult times. Molly Secours One Woman Show Productions writer/filmmaker/speaker

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