Carmen Garcia and her son Dalton lost their home earlier this year. Since the 2008 financial crisis their modest home in Summit, Illinois had been underwater. Attempts to refinance were unsuccessful. After years of mounting debts, taxes, inflexible bankers, and freak flooding (adding more structural damage to the home), Carmen and Dalton decided their best option was to walk away from the crushing and growing debt and start over. We want to help them do so.
Our connection to the Garcias? Carmen came to the U.S. in 1984 fleeing widespread political violence and chaos in El Salvador. She was aided by a national faith-based network of which our church, St. Francis House Episcopal Center, was a part. Carmen was seven months pregnant when she arrived here in Madison, Wisconsin. Dalton was born in Madison in October that year. They moved to the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago where Carmen became an active member of St. Pius V Catholic Church. She married and bought a house in Summit, Illinois . In 2006 she quit her job and for over a year cared full time for her husband who had suffered a brain hemorrhage following a fall. He died in 2007. Since the financial crash of 2008 she and Dalton have struggled to make ends meet. Carmen works in food service at a senior living facility. Dalton has some experience in real estate and is currently working for a title company.
Dana and I have kept in touch with Carmen from the very beginning. We are godparents to Dalton. We have, over the years, been able to help with small amounts of money to help with various expenses, school supplies, heating bills, rent payments, and the like. We have always wished we could do more.
And now we can. In addition to helping them directly because of our own good fortune, we are reaching out to some of the churches, institutions, and individuals who participated in the network that aided Carmen and so many other refugees years ago. And with this GoFundMe campaign we are appealing to family, friends, and interested individuals to join us with whatever level of help you can afford. We also ask that you please share this link with your family and friends. Our goal is to help Carmen and Dalton start 2018 on sound enough financial footing to make a home purchase possible.
We haven’t been able to scratch the surface of what amazing people Carmen and Dalton are—hard-working, kind, resilient, and after years of struggle, deserving of some good fortune. When Dalton told us earlier this year of their decision to walk away from the impossible position dictated by the bank and to literally start over, Carmen, (who is Tom's age, 63) was understandably depressed by the prospect. Dalton’s steadfast conviction that they could and would start anew and make their way was incredibly inspiring to Dana and me. It seemed to us the quintessence of the American spirit. We’re proud of them and feel blessed to be able to help.
Tom Waselchuk & Dana Johnson
P.S. History and background: Carmen was one of thousands of refugees fleeing political violence in El Salvador C.A. in the 1980s. The Salvadoran Civil War began after a 1979 military coup brought the Revolutionary Government Junta to power. Catholic activists protested against the junta's oppression of impoverished citizens. Óscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while saying Mass. On December 2, 1980, four Catholic missionaries from the United States working in El Salvador were raped and murdered by five members of the El Salvador National Guard. In December 1981 the Salvadoran Army brutally murdered over 800 civilians in the village of El Mozote. The details of all of these and other crimes are easy to find; suffice it to say that Salvadoran government, army, and National Guard activities created chaos, terror, and a flood of political refugees. In June 1984 Carmen fled the country leaving her daughter, Iliana, behind with her parents. She was seven months pregnant when she waded across the Rio Grande River into south Texas with all her worldly belongings in a plastic bag. The faith-based Sanctuary Movement facilitated Carmen’s arrival in Madison. Dalton was born there in October.
Carmen was reunited with her daughter in 1985 and the family moved to a small, run-down apartment in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, a poor and violent area at the time. Carmen became an active member of St. Pius Catholic Church. Years passed and the family scraped by. In 2002 Carmen married Carter Richard Hansard, and they bought a small house in Summit IL. In 2006 Carter fell and suffered a brain hemorrhage. When his VA medical benefits ran out Carmen quit working to care for him. He died in December 2007.
And then came the crash of 2008 and the downward financial spiral outlined above began. Carmen has continued to work in food service at senior living facilities with low wages, no benefits, and no sick leave—and finally an unsustainable mortgage.
Tom Waselchuk & Dana Johnson
- Tom Waselchuk
- Jonathan Melton
- Chris Lucas
- Jill Peckenpaugh
Organizer and beneficiary