Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Forgotten...Not Gone

(Please dedicate time to read this post completely and investigate each link within. There’s a story here that needs to get out and I’m unable to do it justice in a simple blog posting. Your help is needed)

2009 has been a wild year for my family, me, and many others.

We started a new company with a new idea and launched the effort during the most challenging economic climate in many decades. Putting it mildly, the stress has been high, the stakes higher, and uncertainty higher yet. We’re not alone in being challenged. Our hurdles pale in comparison to those of many others.

Epic disaster

Do you remember Hurricane Katrina from August 29, 2005? Seems like a long time ago doesn’t it? Apparently the event is no longer newsworthy as I don’t recall a mainstream story about it for some time. I just figured most were back on their feet and continuing to recover. Out of sight, out of mind.

Besides, we’re in a recession, fighting two wars, hotly debating healthcare reform, and unemployment is up. Collectively, we’re trying to figure out how to get through it all.

How wrong I was.

I stumbled across @katrinasos on Twitter. A new “avatar” attempting to create a voice by way of social media. As I often do, being a veteran of business and witness to the cold ways of the world, I chalked it up to just another scam, almost dismissed it. I don’t know why, but I clicked their link...opening a portal into one family’s drawn-out struggle to recover from a disaster most of us have forgotten. Hardship...or scam?

Stark reality and a testament to courage

Very skeptical, I began to investigate the story and asked a few close friends to do the same. I checked out their blog and learned a bit more of their considerable plight. Racket...or simply victims of dire circumstance?

A picture emerged. A fairly young family with Jason and Sadie at the helm, prideful parents of five children. Both web development educators, scraping together finances to feed the family and rebuild their lives by teaching at competing community colleges near the Mississippi coast. What’s left of their home sits roughly twenty miles inland and about eighty feet above sea level. High enough to avoid the storm surge, but too close to avoid the devastating winds of Katrina, or escape the fine print of home insurance contract language. Notably above sea level, unlike many of Katrina’s victims...but ineligible for most government assistance programs. Viewing desperation as defeat...but remaining undefeated, a strong family, heroically facing the challenge of rebuilding after having their home erased by the storm...more than four years ago. If you’re feeling the pinch of the great recession, imagine handling it as a footnote to Katrina.

We’ve all heard of “falling through the cracks” right? Well, their story provides a clear example of how that can anyone.


Trapped, at wit’s-end, creatively clearing hurdles

So, what do you do when you’re caught in the tangled and intricate web between mortgage contracts, inadequate and confusing homeowners insurance, inaccessible disaster assistance, family obligations, and mother nature? That’s the scenario...and this family is finding ways to persevere.

When all else fails

The combination of their Twitter presence and blog is an open appeal for help...any help. Please note that the appeal is a last resort. They need building materials (even scraps happily accepted), moral support, legal guidance, volunteered labor, tools and, of course, money.

My thoughts began to could I help? Having just started a new company I have little to offer. What’s the right thing to do? Is this for real?

Meet the Heberts: One family climbing back from Katrina.

Imagine storm-taping the windows, shoring up loose objects in the yard, and departing to ride out a hurricane? Then returning to find remnants of what was a happy home, life’s greatest investment, and a half-decade long scrape back to normality?

After introduction through Twitter a few emails were exchanged. I did some more investigating, scoured the web for news stories related to Sadie and Jason...found none. I also used Google Earth and Maps to verify location, matching site facts to what appeared in their blog and the associated Flickr photo site. All matched. Either a very well orchestrated ruse or, perhaps, truth to their tale?

Empathic but still skeptical, I contacted Jason by phone. We spoke at length as he proudly described details of their project. Designs prepared personally, out of necessity, with great thought and caring for the needs of the family.  A level of detail I simply wouldn’t expect from someone attempting to make off with free building materials.

Jason was happy to share, his angst evident, as he recounted the setbacks of unscrupulous contractors who escaped with their construction funds leaving shoddy results, major rework, and mounting expenses. He stumbled through the chronology of events choking back emotion a number of times. I witnessed a proud man, a husband and devoted father, doing everything within his power to right the foundering ship. I ended the call believing this was simply a family trying to get through it, and disappointed at my own cynicism.

This “avatar” has a voice, personality, kindness and people we all know...enduring...prevailing.


It’s how you respond that matters.

In the Hebert’s I found a strong couple shouldering massive burden. Probably like many others in the region affected by longer newsworthy...but still scratching their way toward a better existence.

Resilient. They continue to respond despite numerous setbacks and entrapment under crushing conditions. The Hebert’s are making a go of it. Digging deeper than many in this bountiful country can, or should, understand. Doing what they can to carry on...with an arduous path ahead. They’re sharing their plight, documenting progress, even providing tips so that others might avoid going similar circumstance. Decent souls.

We can help.

At Homepath Products we produce the eXapath™ in-wall cable pathway system. It’s a practical building subsystem that enables modification to or upgrading of low voltage cables, even after the walls are closed up. Ideal here because it allows the addition of wall outlets, from floor to ceiling, providing flexibility for the Hebert’s to easily add or upgrade at a future time.

Given the stage of reconstruction eXapath is a good fit and within our means to supply. We’ve donated the system, it solves a will help the Hebert’s...we wish we could offer more.

We can help in other can too.

Along with donating products we’re hoping to use the connected nature of the internet to help get their story out. We encourage others to do the same.

Check out the Hebert’s blog, decide for yourself. If you feel their cause is worthy, consider contacting them with help of your own. At minimum, please share the story with others who may be more able to help.

Thanks for taking time to read this post and considering the needs of one family, not forgotten...and far from gone.

Enjoy the holiday season.