Anjie Palmer didn’t see it coming.
Like many hit hard by the Great Recession, her full-time job at a Clay County park was reduced to just 16 hours a week in 2011. Behind on several bills, including her mortgage payment, Anjie felt her life was spiraling out of control.
“I couldn’t keep up with it,” she said about paying her bills.
Her credit card debt racked up, JEA turned off her electricity — but she still had her house. Her house is the center of Anjie’s family life, and where, since 1982, she’s found comfort, raised her three children and celebrated countless happy milestones, including many memorable birthdays and holidays.
“When it got to the point where I might lose the house, it was devastating,” Anjie said. “It was emotionally devastating. It really was.”
She decided to try to refinance her house to reduce her monthly mortgage payments. After more than a year of back and forth with her mortgage company — not to mention her mortgage changed ownership during this time, too — she was frustrated and completely at a loss for what to do.
“They were very rude and kept putting me off,” she said. “They also refused to give me any written confirmations — it was all verbal. There was no interest on their part to help me.”
A conversation with a friend suddenly turned it all around. Her friend works at Family Foundations, a United Way of Northeast Florida partner who’s mission is to grow strong, money-wise families across Northeast Florida.
Soon after that conversation, Anjie was connected to Family Foundations’ financial stability program manager, Sonya Fleshman. Sonya made a call to the mortgage company one afternoon.
“Everything changed immediately,” said Anjie, who was sitting with Sonya and listening in on the phone call. “I’ll never forget it. I was sitting there in complete amazement. I felt like I had a chance again. It was unbelievable.”
With the help from Family Foundations, Anjie’s mortgage payment was reduced by $350 per month. She was then able to use those savings to afford her basic needs like electricity and food as well as begin paying down her credit cards.
“For me to be able to keep my home — physically, I needed a home, but to be in your home from an emotional standpoint — meant everything,” she said.
The help she received gave her hope and got her out of a “funk,” where she said she “couldn’t think straight” about everyday matters.
“It’s not just losing an asset or something material,” Anjie said. “It’s questioning all of my decisions, like a whirlpool down this horrible drain. [Family Foundations] handed me a rope.”
That “rope” became a much-needed turning point for Anjie, whose less-than-part-time position had since been eliminated at the park.
“It gave me the energy and strength to be more productive in other areas,” she said. “I felt like I could function again. I felt like I could move forward.”
Since that phone call, Anjie is now able to cover her basic needs, mortgage payment and already paid off one of her credit cards. Anjie also now has steady income as an Uber driver, and she still volunteers at the park where she used to work.
As for managing her finances, she’s doing well but acknowledges it’s not easy, even when you are making ends meet.
“It’s still a challenge,” Anjie said, “but I feel like I am on the road to recovery. It feels good.”
She is also so thankful for organizations like Family Foundations and United Way of Northeast Florida for services they offer individuals like her.
“It was a resource I could access, and it worked,” Anjie said. “I am very, very appreciative.”
Anjie is just one example of the lives changed by Family Foundations every day. Moreover, Family Foundations is just one of more than 70 partners supported each year by United Way of Northeast Florida in the areas of youth success, financial stability, health and basic needs.
When you support United Way, local lives like Anjie are transformed, and Northeast Florida grows stronger.