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.