Monday, June 6, 2011
Help Me Howard: Follow-Up
In one Help Me Howard, a congregation was about to lose its church, because they were being forced to pay property taxes. And then, there was the fellow who had to evict a tenant after he generously tried to help her. It's what happens in Help Me Howards after they air. Here is Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When Luis Valdeon came to this house he owned to evict a woman, he never thought he would see this: a chicken hanging upside down.
Luis Valdeon, House Damaged: "Leave a chicken in the window."
Nineteen months ago, Luis had bought this house in foreclosure, then allowed Smyrne Mathis and her family to stay here for three months while she got the financing to buy it.
Smyrne Mathis: "I'm very happy."
But instead of buying the house or paying rent, she hired an attorney, took Luis to court to block an eviction and judges let her live here for 19 months for free.
Luis Valdeon: "It's great to give someone 90 days and 90 days, but I am the one that has got to pay for the consequences. Now, the house is completely stripped."
We will get to what had been done to the house, but first, the chicken.
From the outside, it looked dead till we saw its eyes blink. Luis and I untied it and found a ribbon with a bell so tight around its neck, we needed a knife to cut it.
Why do this? I spoke to Smyrne Mathis, the woman who had been living here. She told me she moved out a month before, didn't know who was living there and didn't know anything about a chicken.
Luis Valdeon: "Everything is missing."
When a judge finally let Luis come into his property, the appliances were gone, someone had gone to the bathroom in two closets, walls were knocked in, light sockets gone, doors missing. Luis' attempt to be helpful didn't turn out so well.
Luis Valdeon: "I am still going to help people. Honestly, I have never had one stiff me yet. This is the first time."
Luis lost a lot of money for being nice, but he only wanted to joke about the chicken.
Luis Valdeon: "I might have to call Pollo Perdue. He might have to come over and pick up this chicken and put it in the commercials. This is a good chicken to put in the commercials."
Now from a chicken to a church.
Parishioners: "Help us save Prince of Peace. Please help us save Prince of Peace."
The parishioners of Prince of Peach Primitive Baptist Church were on the streets of Miami trying to save their sanctuary in Broward.
Dee Houston, Trying to Save Church: "When I got involved in it, I said, 'We can't let this happen. We can't lose our sanctuary. We just can't lose our sanctuary.'"
Dee's father built the small Baptist church with his own hands 42 years ago.
Rev. Ralph Seays, Prince of Peace: "I don't know how you put it, but what God gives you, he gives you. No man can take it away."
But when Dee called Help Me Howard, the county was going to take their church away, because someone forgot to file for the tax exempt status every church is legally entitled to. The church owed Broward County $24,000 in back property taxes.
Dee Houston: "It's unbelievable and unattainable. We can't sell that much chicken or fish or peanuts or popsicles to make $24,000. It ain't gonna happen."
Our story aired. South Florida responded.
Dee Houston: "This is absolutely awesome. When I got the call, I was floored about his generosity and kindness and compassion."
Checks poured in. One fellow saw the story and decided to hold a barbecue and a car wash. Yeah, it's that same Luis Valdeon guy again.
Luis Valdeon: "It's going pretty good. I would say today we will collect $5,000 or $6,000."
They did, and then a few weeks later, I got a call from Dee.
Dee Houston: "Through the help of this wonderful community that we live in and those wonderful Channel 7 viewers, we were able to raise over $20,000."
The church has paid off most of the back taxes. They only need a few thousand more, and Dee says they are convinced God will continue to answer their prayers.
Dee Houston: "Absolutely. Absolutely. If he brought us this far, he is not leaving us now."
Oh, and by the way, back to that hen we found hanging in the house.
Luis promised me he would take it to his farm down in South Dade. He did not. He sent me this picture. Luis decided to keep the hen at his house as a pet.
Dee Houston: "I lost $15,000 in attorney fees. I lost another couple thousand in eviction, but I got a new friend. I got a chicken."
Patrick Fraser: "What was about to be done to the chicken? I can only guess. As for the bell hanging from its neck, I have no idea. And since Smyrne says she moved out a month before, I guess we won't know."
Hung up over a problem that has been pecking away at you? Ready for a wing and a prayer? Contact us. We won't chicken out. We will try to help and hopefully won't lay an egg. That's bad.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com