Disaster Relief

For 87-year-old widow Judith White, Hurricane Katrina struck not once, but over and over again. During the storm, Mrs. White’s Biloxi home was severely damaged by 175-mph winds and 14-foot floodwaters. Virtually everything she had accumulated in her long and colorful life was lost. After the storm came financial blows that left her struggling to put her home and her life back together.

ECD/Hope Community Credit Union was instrumental in helping Hurricane Katrina survivors recover from the disaster.

Being an independent and determined woman -- a self-described fighter -- Mrs.White had first approached the recovery process on her own, working directly with her insurance company and contractors. Unfortunately, the contractor she hired not only failed to complete the work she paid him to do, but also used her charge account without authorization to purchase materials for other jobs. Her insurance money was depleted, yet her home repair was still far from complete.

Like many other elderly citizens, Mrs. White had no family in the area to whom she could turn for support. But she soon found the help she needed through ECD and the Phase II Homeowner Assistance Program.

After analyzing the situation, the ECD team began chipping away at the roadblocks that stood between Mrs.White and recovery. First, they helped her develop a solid recovery plan. The team then turned their attention to a grant she had already received to assist with home repair. Realizing that the funds would be insufficient, an ECD counselor guided Mrs.White through the appeal process, eventually securing additional grant money.

Once Mrs.White’s home repairs were back underway, the ECD team helped her file a report of fraud against her original contractor. ECD also assisted her in hiring an attorney to address the charge account situation. Because of Mrs.White’s persistence and ECD’s support, representatives from the Attorney General’s office made contact with the fraudulent contractor and are taking action to resolve the problems.

“I could not have accomplished what I have without my counselors’ tremendous help,” said a grateful Judith White. “I had no family, no one to turn to. But my counselors were there for me, even when I just needed someone to talk to.”

Mrs. White’s story is just one of the nearly 3,500 examples of how ECD’s homeowner counseling is impacting lives on the Gulf Coast. Her situation was unique. But so is every other case in the storm-shocked region. The ECD counselors clearly understand that each case represents a unique life with unique losses and a one-of-a-kind path to recovery.

Laura Howe, ECD counseling manager, explained, “Every client who comes to us receives a highly individualized recovery plan. Then we guide them through every step, from receiving grant money to selecting a contractor to credit repair and fraud prevention. In short, we do whatever it takes to help them recover.”

Howe added, “It is a joy to be able to provide a service such as this. We’ve had the opportunity to celebrate with clients when they finally moved into their completed homes.We’ve celebrated with them as they achieved recovery goals. We’ve celebrated when we saw them move forward with their lives after they thought that they couldn’t possibly go on. Every day, our counselors do what seems to be impossible.”

Today, Judith White is closer than ever to a successful recovery. She’s not only made progress with her home, but she’s also made lasting friendships at ECD.

“They’ve been my leaning post through these very tough times,” she said with a warm smile. “I consider them true friends, not just counselors.”

Success story provided by ECD/Hope

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