County rallies to help vet fight eviction
By Buzz Trexler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Stuart Duke said he was emotionally in a bad way Tuesday morning, but all of that changed as the day went on and people read in The Daily Times how he and his family were about to find themselves without a home.
“I tell you, I was totally downbeat this morning,” Duke said when contacted by The Daily Times Tuesday afternoon. “I thought there wasn’t a chance to save our home.”
Now, Duke said, “We can see light at the end of the tunnel.”
The light came in the form of an outpouring of support, including a visit from a fellow veteran, Hubert Queen, who set up an account at Y-12 Federal Credit Union SEmD one of two that has been set up locally to assist the Duke family.
“We’re rallying veterans around this guy,” Queen said when contacted Tuesday afternoon. “I went out and visited him and he said, ‘Yesterday, I had no hope. Because you came, I do.”
Asked whether he was connected to a veterans organization, Queen said, “I’m just an old veteran. I’m everybody’s chaplain who needs one.”
Stephanie Trost, Alcoa branch manager for SunTrust Bank, said Foothills Care Inc., part of the Department of Children’s Services Relative Care Program, was setting up an account with SunTrust to benefit the Duke family.
The 55-year-old Duke said he had also been contacted by other media who read the story.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” he said. “We’re very grateful to everybody who has helped us out and everybody who will help us.”
'Others like him'
As readers were learning about the Dukes’ predicament, the Tennessee Valley Coalition to End Homelessness (TVCEH) found out Tuesday that it had been awarded a $330,000 grant by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs that will be used to help East Tennessee veterans and their families that are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“It won’t help him (Duke) now, but in the future it will help others like him,” said Tonia Latham, TVCEH program director.
Latham said the coalition has been working on the grant application for months. “We are thrilled that we will have the resources to be able to assist veterans like Mr. Duke who find themselves in a similar situation in the next year,” Latham said in an email to The Daily Times. “While it is unfortunate that the grant won’t arrive quick enough to help Mr. Dukes and his family, our aim is to keep other veterans like him in Blount County from having to face the same dire circumstances in the future.”
According to Melanie Cordell, TVCEH interim executive director, “Almost 50,000 very low-income veterans live in our coverage area that potentially could be eligible for this program. We are looking forward to working with our veterans to provide them the services and support necessary to stably house them and their families.”
Outpouring of support
The Daily Times was inundated with phone calls and emails Tuesday after telling the Duke family’s story. Some were seeking to give money, while others were willing to share food.
An Army veteran, Duke told of serving in Korea, Germany, Egypt, Honduras and Iraq. He bought the home, located off of East Broadway Avenue, in 1995 before he married Beatrice. It is now on the auction block, set to be sold to the highest bidder on the steps of the Blount County Courthouse.
The sale, which according to the foreclosure notice will take place “on or about 10:30 a.m.” on July 24, is getting way too close for this family of three. Stuart said his payment is only $455, much lower than rent would be should he have to move. He’s not that far behind — about $3,600 on the mortgage and $2,000 for lawyer’s fees.
The Dukes are raising their 14-year-old granddaughter who’s been with them since the age of 3. It’s the only home she’s known.
The Dukes said they received the notice of the pending sale from their lawyer, who confirmed the state-mandated legal notice was published in the Knoxville News Sentinel rather than The Daily Times, despite the fact that they live in Blount County.
LifeTimes Editor Melanie Tucker contributed to this report.