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Help Save My House

I’m running a GoFundMe campaign to save this house, which is now in grave danger of foreclosure. The original idea was just to help pay for the new septic system repairs. Now it’s become a little more urgent, since getting these bills paid is the only way I’m going to be able to survive the next few years without having to take up residence under a bridge or in an alley somewhere.

Here’s the story. I bought the house ten years ago. Eight years ago, when I was still working for Verizon, they decided I needed to work in Ohio and not in Georgia. This was in the midst of the Bush recession, so it wasn’t possible to sell the house, which has lost about $37,000 in value. No one would even consider listing the place, unless I was willing to write a $40,000 check to the bank when it closed. Sure, nice tax write-off, but I didn’t have an extra $40,000 lying around, so I listed the house with a rental agent instead.

For the next six or so years, I merely had to subsidize the tenants to the tune of $200-$300 per month in order to rent out the place. I wasn’t giving the tenants the money, obviously, but if the mortgage averaged a little over a thousand a month and the rent was seven to eight hundred, you can see what was happening. This is really why the septic system problems, coming on top of other plumbing problems the previous month, hit me so hard. Usually, you try to set some of the rent aside for repairs, but it’s really only been about the last year or so when I was actually getting more in rent than I was paying for the mortgage. Not enough more, frankly, since it also had to cover a couple of months when the place was empty.

Hence, the GoFundMe campaign, and the realization that, if I have any friends at all, they’re not willing to help with this. The campaign started on January 29 and, as of today (Feb 12), has yet to raise even a single penny. Considering a guy managed to raise $55,000 on a $10 goal earmarked for making a potato salad, that’s more than a little discouraging.

If you’re wondering what about Verizon, well, they decided about three years ago that it was time I retired. Honestly, I think they were a little reluctant about that, and would have been more than happy to simply lay me off and be done with it. Unfortunately for them, I was old enough, and had enough years in, that retirement was the only option. I don’t think I’m going to bankrupt them. They don’t pay a pension, and quite literally the only real retirement benefit is that you get to keep the employee discount on phone service. They were charging me $6,000 a year for retiree health for a while, but I found something more reasonable that actually has better coverage and a lower deductible.

Okay, by now you’re wondering why I haven’t moved back into the house, since I’ve been retired for three years. I can answer that in one word. Mom. My mother is 92, and lives about 150 miles from me in Ohio. I’m fairly sure I’d have moved back to Georgia as soon as I retired if that wasn’t the case. If anything happens with her, I want to be close enough to get there quickly.

Now, let me go into what’s happened. Within the space of a month, I’ve had to have a toilet replaced, work done of the stove, and the septic tank pumped twice, the second time in order to do an inspection of the drain field. That proved to be beyond hope of repair, which was why the tank was backing up. So the drain field is being replaced. The whole thing comes to just under $4,000, and that’s coming out of the rent. No check for January, and I won’t get one in February, March, or April, either. Or I might get a partial payment in April, maybe a hundred dollars or so. Meanwhile, I’ll owe the bank four mortgage payments with nothing available to pay them.

I did try to sell the house when this happened, and even got it under contract to a company that buys investment homes. They pulled out a couple days before it would have gone to the title company for closing. Somehow, they’d based their price on square footage that included a spare bedroom in the basement, and changed their mind when the title paperwork included only the main floor. Okay, they offered to go through with it if I went down $22,000, but that would have been $18,000 less than the mortgage, so there was no way that could work.

My Social Security covers my rent here in Ohio and, if I stop having taxes taken out, it might also cover the utility payments, but that’s about it. I might make a couple hundred more from book sales, but that’s only on a particularly good month. Usually, it’s more like forty or fifty. Some people sell thousands of crappy books every month. I sell a half dozen or so good ones. I make more from narrating the audiobooks than from my writing, and I don’t make that much from the audiobooks. Acting jobs bring in less than $1,000 most years. The 401K is long gone, and the credit card bills are a lot higher than I like. I strongly suspect that the Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol won’t be rolling up in front of my apartment, either.

I did take a holiday job at the local mall, but that’s over now. I might even get to go back as a regular employee, but it’s just as likely I won’t, and it would most likely be part-time in any case. I’m looking for something else, but there’s not that big a market for guys my age.

Anyway, I need to raise this money, so I’m appealing to any friends, readers, or even complete strangers to help out. You don’t get much out of it beyond the satisfaction of helping somebody get through a financial crisis, obviously. I sort of hope that might be enough, even if only for a few of you.

Spread this around. The way these things work is somebody tells a friend, who tells more friends, and with any luck the campaign pitch can end up in thousands of news feeds and email boxes and enough people will donate a few bucks to make the goal. As it is, I think it’s been shared only five times since it was first posted. If we can get it out there, maybe it can catch the eye of some philanthropist who wants to support the arts. I write more and better when I can afford to eat regularly.

If you want to contribute, go here for the campaign. Any donations, by the way, are considered a gift, since you get nothing in return beyond personal satisfaction and a thank-you note. They’re not deductible, though, since I’m not a registered charity. It’s called “Jack’s Septic System & Maint Fund,” but by this point it’s more “Save Jack’s Retirement Home” than anything else. I still plan to move back there once Mom’s gone, though I’m obviously hoping that will still be a good, long time. (And now you know what my actual name is, just in case you were wondering.)