As home mortgage foreclosure notices began appearing, then multiplying, in the Vineyard newspapers, John Pearson grew concerned. When the notices began to include names he knew, including people who volunteered with him at Big Brothers/Big Sisters, he convened a group to take action.
And tomorrow, despite the fact that it is tax time and the nearly 70-year-old accountant hasn’t an hour to spare, Mr. Pearson will moderate the group as it finalizes a two-page “not four-page, not 10-page” guide to help Islanders in financial stress, a resource he hopes will be distributed through churches and community service groups.
“By the time those notices are published there’s virtually nothing that can be done,” said Mr. Pearson. “But we can focus on people facing financial hardship, people who may be thinking, ‘I can’t make my mortgage this month, what should I do?’ ”
The group that has met several times includes church leaders, members of Women Empowered and other concerned citizens. “Churches are often the first to get the call — ‘My house is freezing up, can you help me pay the heating bill?’ ” explained Mr. Pearson. “The church can buy a tank of propane, help them get food and the Island Food Pantry, but the church can’t bail out everyone’s mortgage.
“We all know it’s there, everyone who reads the papers, but we don’t know what we can do about it.
“Well, we can be a resource for people.”
David Greenman, who works in loan servicing at the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, will attend Saturday’s meeting to lend his 30 years of experience to the task of composing a flyer that might be useful for people who have lost their jobs or for other reasons are under financial stress. The group will prioritize a list of things you can and should do if you find yourself getting financially behind.
Those actions may include working up a budget — to see how you could change your spending and meet your bills, or to pinpoint why you can’t pay them.
Next on the list, Mr. Pearson imagines, might be “call your bank, now.”
He says many people stick their financial heads in the sand, hoping the problems will disappear, when in fact both Island banks — and national banks — have staff dedicated to helping people work out problems and avoid foreclosure. “A large number of mortgages were changed last year to keep people from going into foreclosure,” Mr. Pearson said.
He noted approvingly that neither the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank nor the Edgartown National Bank invested in “no-doc” mortgages that proliferated nationally, allowing people to borrow much more than they could afford. But when borrowers here do get strapped, for whatever reason, the banks want to help.
“Paul Watts at the Edgartown bank says the worst thing is, people don’t call us, and they don’t return the bank’s calls,” Mr. Pearson said.
“And we’re about to see another wave of foreclosure notices in the next 45 days,” Mr. Pearson said. “It’s not going away, this problem.”
Anyone interested may attend the meeting, expected to last between an hour and an hour and a half. It begins at noon at Grace Episcopal Church on Woodlawn avenue in Vineyard Haven.