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.


  1. Tremendous post again, thanks for sharing. The entire Karina ordeal breaks my heart , so much avoidable misery and pain. It is uplifting to find such strength of spirit and perserverance.

    Timothy R. Hughes
    (aka @vaconstruction)

  2. Timothy, thanks for the kind assessment...I know the Hebert's appreciate any and all support they receive.

  3. Mike -- I almost feel there is some level of lameness in me leaving a comment here, first. But I just wanted to say that this is an important post (incl. the details of your own internal conflict) and that you are a good man. your friend jb. @BMoxieBMore

  4. jb, thanks for the comment. The Hebert's have been suffering in silence (like many)and are stubbornly plowing their way through tough times. I'm hopeful that by getting their story out they'll get some well deserved relief. Thanks!

  5. How generous of heart you are to take the time to share this story. The help you gave this family with your donation and the plea for others to join you puts you right up there Mike.

    Despite having your own family to be concerned with in this economy you have put your hand in your pocket and taken your time. There is a special place for people like you. This karma will come back to you.

  6. Thanks Fran, my small team did quite a bit of vetting (sad, but true) to validate their story. We firmly believe these people deserve a helping hand and they need more than we can provide. Hoping others who are in a position to assist will find a way to help. Thanks for reading the story and helping to spread the word.

  7. The story is the same over and over. We recently donated a progeCAD site license to the university of New Orleans in the name of another survivor of Katrina facing the same uphill battle against fraudsters and bureucrats. We also had the opportunity to provide this brave soul with his own CAD software to help him rebuild his Home and his lost Business. You can read his story in the upcoming December issue of American Surveyor Magazine.

  8. What a terrific story, many kudos for your taking the time to investigate and share. We should all look into our own worlds and find ways to help people like this -- who fell through the cracks -- in whatever small meaningful ways we can!

  9. Jessica, thanks for your comment. I agree, there are many people, in our own backyards, who need a helping hand. Opportunities abound.

  10. Thank you Mike for the wonderful article and product donation. Thank you for trusting in us and empathizing with our struggles. Thanks to everyone else for all the nice comments.

    We received the eXapath packs yesterday and can't wait to install and, more importantly, put to use.

    Jason & Sadie Hebert

  11. Jason and Sadie,

    The pleasure truly is ours...good luck with the installation and feel free to call with questions should you have any.

    We look forward to seeing the results and also wish to extend our thanks to the many people taking interest in your story.



  12. Mike, what a great article! You have such a big heart! Thanks for sharing these stories...

  13. Michelle,

    Thanks for your interest. The Hebert's are a terrific family so please help by sharing their story.



  14. This makes my day. Not that the plight of this family isn't heartbreaking but because you chose to act. I'm inspired.

    Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing.


  15. Hi Kit,

    Thanks for taking a few minutes to read the post. The Hebert's are a terrific family and diligently working through pretty tough times...they inspire me. Please share their story so that others who may be in a position to help have the opportunity to do so...trying to get the word out.