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Strangers quietly save the Wheelers from foreclosure

In September, Wes and Cathy Wheeler were six months behind on their mortgage and running deeper into debt. They were desperate to save their house in Croydon from foreclosure. They resolved to throw themselves on the mercy of the Bank of America, their mortgage lender, in a plea to save their house.


“The kids could see the stress,” Cathy said. “We weren’t sure what to do. Do we start to look around for another place to stay? Do we pack and move?”

The day before their 26th wedding anniversary, the Wheelers and their twin daughters, who are 16, stepped into a pawn shop on Route 413 in Bristol Township. They would meet with Bank of America that night, but they needed cash to get to the meeting, to have their phone service restored, and to make a trip to central New Jersey where a relative was undergoing major surgery.

When they came into the pawn shop, it was chance that brought me there, too. I wanted to speak to the owner about a development era of expansive government gimmickry — middle-class people forced to pawn family heirlooms to buy gas to get to work.

The Wheelers faced an inevitable sheriff’s sale that would put them, the twins, a foster daughter and their 4-year-old grandson on the street.

I wrote about them, published in this space on Sept. 27, to showcase how their plight is the new normal for millions of Americans. Then, the unexpected happened.

Readers, from Bensalem to Bedminster and from Feasterville to Falls, quietly and with no desire for fanfare, sent money. Envelopes arrived in the newsroom, some bearing checks, others cash. All had instructions to forward the money to the Wheelers’ Stephen Avenue address.

A man sent them a check for $5,000, which covered most of the back mortgage. Wes and Cathy were stunned.

“The very next day, a man and a woman knocked on our door and handed us a hundred dollars and said, here you are, see you later. I said we didn’t even get your name,” Cathy said.

Parishioners at Our Lady of Grace Church in Penndel helped with Christmas gifts for their children, and with Thanksgiving dinner.

Cathy said she had enough money to finish her grandson’s bedroom, which was left a mess by a contractor who, several years ago, took their money for improvements, and ran.

“It’s been incredible. It really restores your faith in humanity,” Cathy said.

It has been tough for the Wheelers. They were fine until Wes was left disabled after suffering severe injuries in a car crash. (One of the items they pawned the day I met them was a gold religious medal, which was given to Wes as he lay unconscious in the hospital after the crash.)

The Wheelers avocation for taking foster children from the city (27 kids since 2000), has strained their budget. Cathy works as a part-time crossing guard. Still, they cobble together enough money to live.

“We’ve always struggled, but we’ve always been generous with our home and time,” she said. “These kids, for some of them, this house is the only stability they have ever known in their lives.”

Cathy figured somehow, some day, their good will would be repaid. It has been.

“Everyone has been wonderful,” she said.

Well, almost. The Bank of America hassled them. The check they received for $5,000 was enough to cover four payments.

“They told me to send it and we will work with you on the other two payments,” Cathy said. “Great! I immediately got a check off to them. It was Oct. 15, around there, (when) I sent them the check. They said, great, gonna work with ya. Calls me a few days later, says we’re sending it back. They wanted all six payments, or nothing.”

After more negotiation, the Wheelers and the bank have agreed to a modified mortgage, which will have them current by spring, with monthly payments lowered by $150.

Her wedding ring, which she pawned for gas, is on her finger again, and they also got Wes’s religious medal back.

“2013 will be a better year for us,” she said. “I can feel it. I believe in lucky 13. My father was born on a Friday the 13th. You know, just to feel light is a great gift. Just to be able to leave home and come back and not fear that the sheriff was going to be at the front door. So, I’m happy again. We’re happy again.”

Article source: http://www.phillyburbs.com/blogs/news_columnists/jd_mullane/strangers-quietly-save-the-wheelers-from-foreclosure/article_e36b7d69-5bfe-5d13-b53f-eb160818bd18.html

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