By Crystal Elissetche, Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps AmeriCorps member
Reading headlines of U.S. economic woes and of partisan politics will depress even the most devout optimist. Life seems like a hopeful tragedy at best. At least this is the attitude I possessed three months ago when beginning my AmeriCorps year of service. One during which collegiate idealism clashed against the growing realization that the world is such a big and complicated place—asking how can I possibly make a difference?
My name is Crystal Elissetche and I am the Foreclosure Prevention Intake Specialist at Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services (KNHS). For those unfamiliar with foreclosure here is a quick caption. First rule is foreclosure does not discriminate. People from all walks of life can fall victim to this economic fate. Second rule about foreclosure is that every person’s situation is different. One must be fast on their feet and ready to learn a lot of material to do this job well. Lastly, the third rule about foreclosure is every case is a human case—there are real people in desperate need of help. Foreclosure affects individuals, families, and communities alike; therefore, we are all affected by it.
Needless to say I entered this position unprepared both emotionally and mentally. I began learning all about the housing process and about the root causes of Michigan’s foreclosure crisis from scratch. Initially I was overwhelmed and very upset by the facts, but my defeatism and anger would not help people stay in their homes. What I needed was information, determination, and a cup of coffee to do it all. Today, I am armed with an arsenal of facts regarding Michigan’s new 90 day pre-foreclosure law; how to avoid rescue scams; and, in the toughest of situations, a client’s rights during the redemption period. But above all, this position led to personal transformation. AmeriCorps and KNHS helped me rediscover how one person can truly make a difference.
From behind a desk I am changing the world one family at a time. In October, I used information from my office’s Foreclosure Policy and Procedures Guidebook to stop a November sheriff’s sale for a new client and his wife. Aided by KNHS’ MSHDA certified housing counselors, I was able to advocate for the client to the lender and the law office of Trott & Trott, P.C. Our client submitted a financial packet which resulted in a potential loan modification instead of a foreclosure. While this may be the exception instead of the rule, throughout November and December I helped 14 clients not miss their 30 day deadline to take advantage of Michigan’s 90 day pre-foreclosure law. On most days I take comfort in small victories. Like reassuring worried mothers and fathers that people who genuinely care still exist, and that many organizations like KNHS and AmeriCorps are committed to helping.
AmeriCorps is the best kept secret of our country because it allows wearied souls like mine to find purpose again. I have the privilege of serving my community and country, but I want others to follow. Everyone should to take a moment from their busy lives to recognize how our neighbors’ problems are in fact our problems because this is what a Union entails. As Americans we need to stand united in good times, bad times, and especially in the toughest of times. My mission is to educate as many people about AmeriCorps so together we can build healthier and stronger communities through individual and collective action. Today, the world is full of hope even in the midst of uncertainty because I have faith in the spirit of my fellow Americans—I have a resounding faith in the spirit of AmeriCorps.
Crystal Elissetche is an AmeriCorps member at the Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services in Kalamazoo
This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.