Can crowdfunding save this family's home from foreclosure?

Eric Pfeiffer
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UPDATE: Yes, crowdfunding can save this family's home. More specifically, Yahoo News readers have saved this family's home from foreclosure. In less than 24 hours, Yahoo readers have donated more than $40,000 to the DeCesare family, exceeding their fundraising goals. GoFundMe CEO Brad Damphousse reached out and said, "Because of you, hundreds of dollars are being donated every minute."

Charles DeCesare also contacted me to let me know that all of you have "changed his family's life." He noted that yesterday was the birthday of his late mother.

Original story begins below


He’s lost his mother to illness and his childhood home is in foreclosure. But Charles Philip DeCesare says he’s planning a party and he wants you to come.

The 23-year-old New Jersey resident and his family have been battling a potential home foreclosure for several years, and their options are quickly running out.

They’ve tried loans, odd jobs, negotiating with the bank, just about everything.

After his mom died and his father was forced to stop working following a series of debilitating physical injuries, DeCesare turned to his last, great hope: strangers on the Internet.

DeCesare launched a last-ditch effort to raise the $40,000 needed to keep his family’s home through a crowdfunding campaign on the GoFundMe website.

“This struggle has been going on for six years,” DeCesare told Yahoo News during a recent phone interview. “But only recently had the bank really pressured us. It’s only because of this fundraiser and us being in constant contact with the bank that they have started to give us better options.”

As a company, Yahoo is selective about getting behind fundraising campaigns, typically supporting broader causes like the relief efforts after Typhoon Haiyan last November.

But we’ve seen Yahoo readers generously support individual causes as well, generously helping a New Mexico firefighter struggling to pay for his cancer treatment, supporting an 8-year-old fighting human slavery and giving more than $20,000 to a boy who was helping his own father pay for his cancer treatments by opening a lemonade stand.

But back to that party.

For years, DeCesare’s father, Scott, used his skills as a professional construction worker to turn his family’s modest home into a sanctuary.

In happier times, he built a playground for his two sons. And when his wife, Julia, became ill, he methodically built improvements into the home to make life easier for her as her mobility decreased.

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In a perfect world, the GoFundMe project would be a success. They’d raise the $40,000 and the DeCesare’s would host a large celebration for anyone who donated — even $1.

“I want to throw a party regardless of whether we hit the goal or not,” DeCesare said. “I want to invite everybody to my house. I want to have everyone experience the house as it should be enjoyed.”

So far, they’ve only raised a little over $3,000 through friends and generous strangers who have stumbled across the site.

Is the goal too far-fetched? Not at all, according to GoFundMe CEO Brad Damphousse.

Damphousse provided Yahoo News with several examples of families who used his site to fight off foreclosure cases. As recently as December, one family took in more than $40,000 to save their home.

“People will always be eager to support others they care about,” Damphousse told Yahoo News in an email interview. “As word spreads, communities often come together and support one another in ways beyond financial contributions.”

So how did things get so desperate for DeCesare and his family?

Technically, home foreclosures are tracking at a six-year low. That’s great news for the country but doesn’t provide much solace to the Americans who lose time, energy and money each day wondering how much longer they’ll be able to keep their homes. More than 4 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since the financial crisis began.

DeCesare wants people to understand that his family isn’t lazy or asking for a handout. Their loan agent at CitiBank is even behind the crowdfunding effort, applauding the family for pursuing every available option to save their home.

Charles and his father both work in construction. For decades, his father’s steady income as a union steamfitter was enough to pay the bills and build a small family.

But when Charles’ mother was diagnosed with a chronic illness five years ago, the family was forced to divert the majority of their savings and income to her treatment.

“After she got sick, a lot of the funds went to her health care,” DeCesare said.

She died two years later, leaving the family emotionally and financially devastated.

From there, things only got worse.

Work opportunities with the local union became scarce for Scott DeCesare, who is recovering from several work-related injuries, including torn ligaments and broken bones in his ankles.

It didn’t take long before the bills began to pile up.

“His job had been stable for years, then, all of sudden he wasn’t working. Almost all at once, within a year, my Mom got sick, Dad no longer was working steadily,” he said.

They tried loans, new job opportunities and scaling back their monthly expenses to the bare minimum. But the monthly house payments continued to exceed their incoming funds each month.

“For too long, we’ve had this sense of pride that we’ve got to do it ourselves,” DeCesare said. “My dad got off the phone with the bank and he was crying. I’d never seen him cry before. So I told him about the funding website.”

At first, Scott was reluctant to support his son’s idea of turning to the Internet for financial support. But when he got the final foreclosure notice from the bank, he knew they had to consider every option.

“The $40K goal on the GoFundMe page would allow us to bring the loan payments into a manageable, sustainable range,” Scott told Yahoo News. “Obviously, the ultimate goal is to completely pay off the loan, but right now we are asking for help because our entire situation became jeopardized with the most recent rejection from the bank.”

When asked what advice he would give to the DeCesare family, Damphousse said they’ve already done a good job by being open and honest about their goals.

“Like anything in life, you get out what you put it. GoFundMe is not a site where users should expect strangers to simply give away their money,” Damphousse said.

“People really value authenticity and transparency when deciding to support a campaign. GoFundMe users should be themselves and share their story in the most sincere way possible.”

And don’t forget to throw a party. DeCesare says everyone who reads this is invited and you can get your tickets here.


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