Leading Up to Giving Tuesday – In Joanna’s Words – Part 5

Day 5 of Joanna’s Story, shared at the Massachusetts Debt Relief Foundation’s Inaugural Fall Dinner.

Joanna Edit

“I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the Mass. Debt Relief Foundation for alleviating many years of stress and anxiety. For me when it came to dealing with money, in all aspects: earning it, spending it, trying to save it, and when and where to invest it, I did not have a clue. I was raised by my grandparents and unfortunately the only time we talked about money was on the first of the month when the bills were due. Every dollar aside from what we spent as a family with the family. Growing up there was nothing to discuss.

I’ve worked since the age of eleven and my motto was I earned it I could buy what I want with it…worked pretty well for me. Again, no one was teaching ,me about money value.

Then came two children…and…my motto quickly changed to I earned it but now I can ONLY buy what I NEED and what They WANT.

Then I became a single mother and the bills kept growing and life became harder and so on and so on. Rent, gas, light, daycare, car payment, car insurance, medical bills, it wouldn’t end. Then came kindergarten, and ‘what do you mean you need school supplies, and school snacks, and your school wants donations?’ and ‘your sneakers are too small?’ ‘Your coats too?’ ‘No you can’t have cable because we need to eat, and no you can’t go here or there or anywhere because I need my gas; and so on and so on.

Then came the news that I was being laid off in three weeks due to a change in company set up where they were transferring my department to a bigger company that could better manage the benefits for the best interest of our members.

So as if it wasn’t bad enough that I wasn’t making ends meet as a single mom, now I was a jobless single mom. Eventually became a homeless and car-less single mom. I did not know where to start. Stressed out, depressed, anxious, and tired to best describe my state of being. I felt like a failure to myself and my kids.

I eventually received the assistance I needed and was advised to contact legal aid for all of the backed up debt that quickly accumulated over the course of 3 years. I was scared at first. Thankfully, I never had to deal with courts or lawyers by this point in my life, and I wasn’t about to start now. It took about 6 weeks until I was approved for legal aid, and then I was contacted by MDRF. Then the process was fairly quick and easy after that.

Attorney Maegan Hurley was the first person to write me. I called and she answered. She was so pleasant and straight forward. She told me exactly how the process was going to go, who I was going to meet, what I was going to sign. She was patient with my answers and patient with the documents I needed to provide her. She always followed up with an email or voicemail. As horrible as I felt with letting my debt get this bad, just talking to Attorney Hurley gave me hope that things were going to be ok and that she really wanted to explore my options to get rid of this debt; whether it be bankruptcy or something else.

Then I met Attorney Michelle Cote. I came to the office to bring all my documents and to sign what seemed like never ending papers. She was great! Explained everything exactly how Maegan said she would. She was organized and ready, did not want to waste any of my time. Yet she gave me all her attention, never once made me feel like I was being judged. I was very comfortable with her. She immediately gained my trust, and made herself readily available to answer any of my many questions or concerns. Michelle also attended the meeting with the Trustee, which I was so nervous for, and she was so calm. All I kept thinking was ‘how does she remain so calm?’ But we did it, and again she made me feel comfortable and the confidence in me once again was there.

What I have enjoyed most about my experience with both of these great lawyers is their expert communication with me and how quickly and efficiently they were able to process and fulfill what they did for me. My bankruptcy will be finalized on December 14th this year, but already I’ve been able to move on with my life in a very confident  manner. I am pursuing my degree in computer engineering at Quinsigamond Community College. I recently started a new job that I really enjoy, in a field I love. Just this week I was approved for a two bedroom apartment for myself and my two girls in the community where I live, and I have managed to get my car payments up to date and I can keep it. That said, I am no longer homeless or car-less, and I am about to be debt free!!!


One more day until Giving Tuesday, when we’ll reveal Joanna’s full speech. Please consider helping our organization tomorrow so we can provide many more fresh financial starts to individuals just like Joanna. Every single dollar counts. For more information on how to donate, please visit our Razoo page. And for more information on our organization, visit our website. 

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