Whatever Happened to Violet?

On January 18–less than 3 weeks ago–I wrote a plea here and on Facebook on behalf of one of the women I met in Louisiana–who now faces a different kind of drowning.  I asked you for money–as little as $10 or as much as you wanted to give–to help “Violet” get out of debt. I knew her situation was dire when I heard she had to pay $99.99 a month toward a $1000 loan and that not one cent of her monthly payments had gone toward the principal.  But imagine my shock when I saw the actual contract, stating an annual percentage rate of — I exaggerate not — 116.52%.

But the point of this update isn’t to lament a country in which such “poor-people’s loans” are legal, but to fill you in on what good came of the plea–good that reflects the kindness and power of consequential strangers.

Many of you responded with donations, often accompanied by sweet notes. You didn’t just write a check or stuff a twenty-dollar bill in an envelope.  You listened, cared, felt good about contributing and said, meaning it, “I wish I could have done more.”  It was amazing to witness.

We’ve raised over $1200 and are (we hope) still counting.


Even better, it’s not just money that’s coming in.  Reading the Facebook post about Violet, “Whitney,” one of my distant CS–a college friend of someone close to me who I’ve heard about but never me–reached out and offered more:  “I will send money,” she wrote in an email, “but thought there may be other resources I could help with.”  She went on to describe several assistance programs in Louisiana, adding:

As you see there are lots of small pockets of assistance with specific criteria. It is hard for people to negotiate the options. I am happy to talk with Violet and try to figure out what she and her family may be eligible for. Most of my experience is with people with disabilities but if I do not have a resource I may be able to connect her up with the right person.

Because of Whitney’s knowledge, expertise, and generosity, Violet’s life could change.   We all know, Violet has to want it to change and be willing to make it happen.   (Several of you have reminded me of this in your notes and emails.)  But Whitney is working on putting together a plan for Violet.  She’ll hook her up with a community action agency that can help her address what made her so vulnerable to a loan shark.  The agency will look into her health insurance problems–she mysteriously lost Medicaid.  They can get her into a food pantry.  The goal is to give Violet the support she needs–training, counseling for her and the kids, people to help with the forms and, most important, a job.  And at that point, Whitney help her apply for certain tax relief programs–and, we hope, not get into debt again.

Whitney’s also getting me help with that heinous contract, to make sure there are no surprises when I pay off the loan.   Which brings me to how the money we’re now collecting will be used.  In  order of importance…

To pay off the $1000  debt –plus “fees.”

For the release of Violet’s G.E.D. diploma. She did it by mail, paying for it in small monthly increments, and she’s passed all her exams.  But–surprise, surprise: the company–I mean, the school–won’t release it until she ponies up the final payment.

For gas gift cards. Getting herself to the community action agency is not just a matter of will–which of course anyone needs to reach a goal–there’s also the very practical matter of getting there.

8 Responses to “Whatever Happened to Violet?”

  1. Laura Schenone Says:

    Melinda,

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to learn about Violet’s story and give a small sum as I did toward her future. I wish her luck and hope for her future. If she’s motivated and has help, she’ll turn it around.

    Also, I think you truly proved your own theory about the importance of Consequential Strangers.

  2. Tweets that mention What Ever Happened to Violet? | Consequential Strangers -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melinda Blau, Melinda Blau. Melinda Blau said: We raised more than money for "Violet," survivor of Hurricane Katrina http://bit.ly/ejtO43 [...]

  3. Susan Valentine Says:

    I was reading some literature on The Heifer Foundation the other day and found that one of the principles is that recipients of gifts eventually pass them on to people in their same situation. Maybe we could suggest to “Violet” that she look around at her peers and see who needs the information that “Whitney” offers. Being helped is good for the soul. Helping is great for the soul.

  4. Jan Felshin Says:

    How about this outrageous loan contract gets to the local newspaper in Violet’s area? This whole tale is worth some publicity; there are others out there in the same predicament.

  5. Jan Felshin Says:

    comment above (2.)

  6. melinblau Says:

    Yes, Laura, it is a gret example. Violet became a CS of mine, and therefore a CS of all my CS and friends!

  7. melinblau Says:

    Excellent suggestion, Susan. In fact, Whitney and I are thinking along the same lines!

  8. melinblau Says:

    Have been thinking about that, too, Jan, but I’m waiting to hear back from “Whitney’s” attorneys.

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