Monday, September 3, 2007
Help Me Howard: Labor Day
Labor Day is a day to celebrate the American worker. But there are people working you don't often hear about. Many of them help those they see on Help Me Howard. Now you're about to meet them. Here's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- It started as her nightmare.
Teresa Bank: "And I said, 'I just can't believe a tank is underneath the house.'"
It was a Kerosene tank that once heated her home but was abandoned 40 years ago. Now it was overflowing into her yard.
Teresa Bank: "Something that happened 40 years ago is haunting me now."
Teresa reported it to DERM (Department of Environmental Resources Management), and was told she had to pay $8,000 to remove the tank and the contaminated dirt in her yard.
Teresa Bank: "I never knew that by my calling I would be so deep into having to pull out $8,000 right now."
Enough of the bad news. After our story aired, we heard from half a dozen people who said they would dig up the tank for free. Then one company, Hydrologic Associates, decided to do the whole job.
Teresa Bank: "And once I got in touch with Mr. Jim Miller he treated me like I was a sister or friend."
Jim Miller: "We said, 'You know what, Teresa? We are going to do it for free for you. We'll take care of the whole job.'"
That's right, Hydrologic Associates agreed to remove the tank and the contaminated soil for nothing.
Jim Miller: "Sometimes you have to give back to the community."
Teresa Bank: "I am very excited. I am happy for the help. I am very appreciative to Hydrologic Associates, and I am just very grateful overall."
Hopefully, the soil samples will soon show her yard is clean. Her nightmare will be over thanks to the helping hand of one South Florida company.
Hannah Smellie: "And with the fence there we can't complete the house and start the landscape, so we got to get that out of the way first."
The Smellies were building their new home, when they found out their neighbor's fence was on their property and had been there for years. To finish the house they had to get him to move the fence.
Hannah Smellie: "I don't think he's being mean or anything, just slow, like forever slow."
That's when we showed up, and the neighbor made a promise to us.
Hannah Smellie: "'I promise you this month I will do it. I will do it.'"
We took his word for it, and he was good for it.
Hannah Smellie: "It took him about three weeks to get everything completed."
The fence got moved. The Smellies are back on track to finish their home. Everyone is happy.
Hannah Smellie: "Now it's good. We've got everything good, and we are good neighbors now."
No laughter for Valerie and her roommates.
Valerie Sanchez: "She kept all of our money. It's not right, it's not right."
When we last saw them, a landlord had refused to return their nearly $3,000 deposit. They filed suit but misunderstood the rules, and their case was dismissed. They were devastated 'til Howard gave them some hope.
Howard Finkelstein: "Court rules say if you miss a hearing for what the law calls excusable neglect, you can ask the judge to reopen the case, so the girls can continue to try and get their money back."
After our story aired, they did as we suggested and went to court. Judge Don Cohn re-opened the case and sent it to mediation. Results are confidential, but the girls got a nice big check.
Valerie Sanchez: "We knew we had a strong case, and we had a lot of evidence, and we went for it."
Valerie refused to give up in that battle, and then there are people who struggle every day...
We will never forget Arlene, a single mom who works all day and spends every other minute caring for her daughter Gloria.
Arlene Lopez: "She's such a pleasant little girl, doesn't complain about anything."
Neither does Arlene. Watch her, and you will never complain about your daily troubles again.
Arlene Lopez: "Giving her a bath, even in her bed, changing her because she is still in diapers. I tend to have back spasms from time to time."
Arlene's co-workers wanted to help. They bought her a $300 bath chair online, but it was the wrong size. The company told Arlene she could not return it without paying a hefty fee.
Arlene Lopez: "I don't have the money myself to do it. I'm struggling as it is."
Once we called, Bizchair.com really stepped forward. They gave her the money to buy a smaller chair and told her to keep the chair and give it to a family that can use it.
Arlene Lopez: "I'm very, very happy that I'm able to help another single parent like myself. That really means a lot to me."
After our story aired, we heard from a lot of people who needed the chair. Arlene picked another single mom, and we offered to deliver it.
Alex: "My name is Alex. What's your name?"
Howard: "My name is Howard, Alex."
Alex: "Nice to meet you, Howard."
Howard: "Nice to meet you, too."
Eighteen-year-old Alex has cerebral palsy. His mother Cathy knew the chair would be a perfect fit for him.
Cathy Irwin: "All us parents got to stick together, and through donations like this is how we can help one another, and I appreciate it, Arlene."
It's a wonderful gesture from one family to another. Howard calls it paying it forward.
Howard: "When people do the right thing and help each other, in the end, everybody comes out a lot better than when they started."
Two courageous mothers who've never met but who share so much in common.
Alex: "Thank you, Arlene."
Of course, there are thousands of Arlenes and Cathys struggling to get by in South Florida.
Patrick Fraser: "And, occasionally, we all have problems. Some are worse than others, but, once in awhile, each of us can do something to help someone else. Its what we try to do every day, and, as you can see, we get a lot of help from a lot of different people, and, if you need help, please get in touch with us."
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