Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Help Me Howard: 2011 Wrap-Up
7's Patrick Fraser and 7's legal expert Howard Finkelstein helped a heck of a lot of people in 2011. And as you're about to see, so did you, our 7News viewers. But we didn't win every battle. Here's a look back at some of the biggest "Help me Howard" stories of the year.
WSVN -- When we first met Dee and her father this year, they were about to lose their church.
Dee Houston: "We can't lose our sanctuary. We can't lose our sanctuary."
Because of a mistake, Prince of Peace Baptist Church had not filed for a property tax exemption and owed Broward County $24,000.
Dee Houston: "It's unbelievable and unattainable."
Dee was wrong. It was attainable. After our story aired, South Floridians responded. The cash poured in.
Dee Houston: "We just finished paying our last $12,647.83, and Prince of Peace Baptist Church is now tax-free."
Tax-free, and thanks to many of you, Prince of Peace was saved.
Dee Houston: "I thank you and Patrick. The outpour of support from the neighbors and pastors and the whole community, it was wonderful."
Other South Floridians also got what they needed after being on Help Me Howard.
Ralph Troutman: "They are giving me the run-around, like I am a criminal."
After our story aired about police illegally keeping Ralph's 50-caliber desert eagle gun, Brandon Rotbart offered to help.
Brandon Rotbart: "Police took his gun for no reason."
North Miami Beach Police claimed they still had the gun but gave Brandon a $2,000 check so Ralph could buy a new one.
Ralph Troutman: "I don't think they expected me to fight back."
When we last saw Joseph Minus, a decade-old accounting error left him owing the IRS $10,000.
Joseph Minus: "I am aggravated and afraid."
John Gay at The Tax Doctor saw our story and got the entire $10,000 tax bill wiped out.
Joseph Minus: "I definitely would not have been able to get this far without Help Me Howard and Mr. Patrick Fraser."
But not every story turns out the way we thought it would.
Mac Jones: "I just can't believe they can do that to kids."
Mac's son Isaiah had overcome liver cancer, heart and lung bypass surgery. Mac called us, because the Broward School District said his 5-year-old would have to walk nearly two miles to school.
Mac Jones: "Too much room for things to go wrong."
After we got involved, the district said there was a misunderstanding and Isaiah could ride the bus.
Mac Jones: "Help Me Howard works. That's all I can say."
Then, our story aired. The district changed its mind and decided to make little Isaiah walk the two miles to school. When I asked if it was retaliation by the school district for our story, I was told it was because of a state-mandated review and there is absolutely no connection between the Help Me Howard segment and the change in the student's status.
Some other kids didn't get a break either. Ebone took the FCAT, then the state threw out the score and made her take the test again, which Howard said was wrong.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "No, they can't get away with this, but in reality, they will get away with it."
Ebone re-took the test and did not do well. But the good news: She transferred to another school, has been accepted at a community college and will take the test again in 2012.
Things turned out better for Serafin Debesa, who had his Facebook page, with 600 pieces of his artwork, hijacked. After our story aired, Facebook told us they would take the page from the hijacker and return it to him.
Norma McNamee: "But I don't want to plant a tree, because it's not necessary."
Hurricane Wilma knocked down a palm tree in Norma McNamee's front yard. Then this year, her association said, you have to replace it. Howard said since it happened over five years ago, they can't force you to replace it.
After our story aired, the association sent this letter, telling her what Howard had said. She did not have to spend the money for a new tree.
And finally, there was Francesca Lauren, the little girl who thought she got too many presents for her birthday last year and wanted to give them to Big Mama to give to other children.
Woman: "She wanted to help those that don't have what she has."
Francesca Lauren was so happy to give her gifts away, she did it again this December, once again giving all the gifts she got for her birthday to kids who might not get toys from santa.
Francesca Lauren: "Makes me feel happy, because I know people don't have as many toys as I can have."
Patrick Fraser: "A big heart for a little girl. A lot of children smiled on Christmas morning because of her. Now I could on and on about people we have met this year, but they are telling me to wrap it up."
We try to help as many people as we can. If you have a problem, get in touch with us. Hopefully, we can make you smile in the coming year.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: email@example.com (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org