Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Olney family overwhelmed by such generosity of reader

Esther Smith, holding nephew Govanie Rivera, stands with her sisters, Barbara Cruz (left) and Monica Smith, on the porch of their Olney home.
Esther Smith, holding nephew Govanie Rivera, stands with her sisters, Barbara Cruz (left) and Monica Smith, on the porch of their Olney home. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff photographer

Esther "Moya" Smith wasn't able to eat turkey yesterday. She had just had two problematic molars pulled and was on a soft-food diet.

But yesterday nonetheless was one of her happiest Thanksgivings.

After the Daily News last week chronicled her battle against foreclosure, a generous reader mailed Smith a $9,100 check - enough to cover her delinquent mortgage payments, as well as penalties and fees.

"Always stay positive. And remember, God provides," the benefactor, a Philly native now living in Dallas who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in a brief note.

Smith, 31, was overwhelmed.

"It's just all shocking. It's so nice that somebody would come out and step forward to give that amount," she said. "I'm still like, 'Whoaaa!' I don't even know how to express it."

Smith has been the reluctant head of her Olney household since her mother died two years ago, leaving her in charge of her two teenage sisters and baby nephew. Financial troubles that started with her mother's medical and funeral bills mounted until she fell seven months behind on her $645 monthly mortgage payments, prompting foreclosure.

The family, with support from the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, planned to resist the foreclosure and remain in their red-brick rowhouse on Widener Street near 3rd in the event of an eviction.

But now that might be moot.

Philippa Brown, a spokeswoman with the Texas-based American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc., which holds Smith's loan, said her company would accept the check to clear the delinquency.

The company still has not decided whether to modify her loan. A decision is expected within several weeks, Brown said.

Yesterday, Smith, along with Cheri Honkala, an organizer with the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, celebrated the donation and publicly thanked the donor.

Honkala said that she and Smith were in contact with people who are a part of the campaign. They had heard stories of foreclosure crises in Minnesota and heard from groups of performers in Los Angeles who were speaking out about Smith's plight.

"We are so blessed that somebody stepped forward and gave her this check to take the stress off her shoulders," Honkala said yesterday.

"Our hope now is that the bank would follow through and modify the loan and that this is a success story and that this family would be able to stay in their home for the holiday season," she added.

Smith agreed, saying that she too was still stunned that someone would help her in such a big way but that she still hoped the modification would go through.

"I didn't know that someone would be that generous and do that for me," Smith said of the donor.

"That person literally brought me my family back."

DANA DIFILIPPO & CHRISTINE OLLEY difilid@phillynews.com 215-854-5934
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