Many of you in Chestnut know Bertha Mae Sellers. Better known throughout the neighborhood as Miss Bertha or Momma, you have likely visited with her at the Shoppers Mart or have seen her walking throughout the neighborhood. She’s a proud, deeply religious 78 year old woman who has been a part of this community for decades. To provide a little background, she moved to Austin from Alabama when she was a child and spent her early years in Clarksville before moving to the East Side. She’s a proud graduate of Anderson High School when Anderson High School was located in our neighborhood. Miss Bertha has helped a lot of people over the course of her life – now she needs our help.
Around 1981 she began renting a house on Walnut Street which quickly became her home. In 2011, her rent began increasing significantly. With Social Security being her primary means of income, Bertha had to resort to payday lenders and pawn shops to help cover the higher expenses.
In 2015 Bertha’s home was sold to developers which left her without a place to live. She put her name on the waiting list at Mt. Carmel Apartments on 12th Street, but one bedroom places are in high demand and a place was not immediately available.
Despite crippling arthritis that has left Bertha reliant on the assistance of a walker, she walks to the Conley-Guerrero senior center every weekday where she is a volunteer and participates in every activity she can. In the evenings, she helps out at the Shoppers Mart cleaning and stocking. She is also an active member of her church.
In the spring of 2016, John and I learned that Miss Bertha was sleeping in Chestnut Pocket Park. Miss Bertha is a proud and somewhat stubborn woman, but after some convincing and some violent thunderstorms, she agreed to spend a night with us to get a good night’s rest and has been with us ever since. She has been a pleasure to have in our home and has become a part of our family.
After being on the Mt. Carmel waiting list for 2 years, an apartment will finally be available for Miss Bertha in September. Due to the payday lending debts she incurred between 2011–2015, however, she needs our help. She is struggling to keep up with the exorbitant interest rates and will not be able to afford the apartment unless she can pay them off and get her head back above water. If not, she will not be able to afford the apartment and the cycle of increasing debt will continue.
Additionally, she has a large past due utility bill with the City of Austin. We have been working with the city on a solution, but she will not be approved until the pending bill is resolved. She had always been current paying her utility bill until the rent increase in 2011 that led to her financial problems.
You may be rightfully thinking, “if she had these financial issues, why are you just now asking for help?” The truth is that we did not know. Miss Bertha does not ask for help and we did not ask her the right questions.
John and I are committed to assisting Miss Bertha get off the waiting list and into the apartment (deposit, first month’s rent, etc.), but we cannot handle all this debt alone. Paying off these debts will mean she can regain her independence and financial stability.
Please donate what you can to help Miss Bertha get a fresh start so she can continue to be a valued member of the community. Thank you!
- Anna Williams
- Elexia Lowe
- Beth Flannery
- Alysabeth Speice
Organizer and beneficiary
#1 fundraising platform
More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more
In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more
Expert advice, 24/7
Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more