A “Little Safe Place on Elizabeth Avenue”

Melody in her chef uniform

Even before the pandemic, Melody and her family were facing a difficult year. Because of her husband’s heart condition and sister’s disability, Melody was the only member of her family bringing in any income, the majority of which went to paying medical bills and old property taxes her parents had left unpaid after they passed away. Melody was chipping away at the balance but could not keep up: she soon received a letter that the county would foreclose on their home. 

“I was devastated,” Melody shared, “I thought I had tried so hard to get nowhere. I was the only one working and I was putting my family in danger of losing their home.”  

Holding back tears, she still went into work the next day. Combining her love of southern food and her own Native Lumbee cuisines, Melody has been whipping up the daily special at Showmars in the Charlotte Government Center for years. A regular customer noticed she was upset and asked what was wrong. Melody explained her situation and he told her about an organization that could help: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.  

Melody, her husband, Jerry, and grandson

Melody quickly connected with The Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection Unit. We assured Melody “not to worry” and worked with Melody and the county to negotiate a payment plan and that included forgiveness of substantial old tax due from the mid-2000’s. Melody and her family were no longer at risk of foreclosure; they could keep their home. In her own words, it “felt like somebody was on my side other than God himself.” 

Melody calls Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte “my little safe place on Elizabeth avenue,” and it’s no surprise why: 

“It brightens my day every time I drive by that building!”

As the pandemic progressed, it became clear Melody and her family had other unaddressed legal needs. Melody was worried about being able to make her payments on time after she was furloughed. She connected with Legal Aid, and soon received expanded unemployment benefits under the CARES act.  “I wouldn’t have been able to make those payments, I would’ve lost it all.” 

Melody is the proud grandmother of nine grandchildren: “Them arms around you and everything is most important, my family.”

As part of our work we learned that Melody’s sister, Wendy’s social security benefits had been terminated despite her disability. The Advocacy Center stepped back in to ensure she was receiving the benefits she was entitled to. The Advocacy Center’s Family Support and Healthcare Unit, also assisted Wendy in applying for food stamps to help their family through this crisis.  Melody would soon turn 65, so we also ensured everything was in order for her to receive Medicare in a few short months.  

After working with Melody she says, “They see you as a person and a human being. Almost like Winnie the pooh would say: ‘they’re the best.’ You can tell I watch too many cartoons with the grandkids!”