With a bit of bubbly, owner savors home sweet home

March 21, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

Laverne R. Sherrod, who was threatened with mortgage foreclosure before 30 activists protested on her behalf at a Linthicum bank office, drank champagne on her lawn yesterday to celebrate the news that her house wouldn't be taken away.

"I hope this encourages other people that you can fight not only City Hall but the bank," she said to a group of six members of the Baltimore Unemployed Council, which led the Feb. 28 protest of Mellon Bank.

Tom Butch, a spokesman for Mellon Bank's administrative offices in Pittsburgh, said that a payment schedule has been worked out with Ms. Sherrod and that her house will not be subject to foreclosure as long as the payments are made.

"This reaffirms my belief in people -- and even a little bit in the bank. Once we got their ear, they were agreeable to working out a payment plan," said Ms. Sherrod, a mother of three.

Ms. Sherrod, who said she recently ended a 15-month period of unemployment, fell behind five months -- about $1,800 -- on her mortgage. Mellon Bank sent her a notice Jan. 16 that she had 30 days to make her account current.

She has lived in the two-story brick rowhouse in the 2700 block of N. Longwood St. for nearly 15 years and had always made her $400-a-month payments to the bank, she said.

But her recent period of unemployment put her behind and in trouble with the bank. She said that she tried to initiate a partial-payment plan -- a claim bank officials deny -- but that the bank was unwilling to accept anything but payment in full.

In response, the unemployed council organized the protest and declared Ms. Sherrod to be a symbol of the plight of unemployed people, many of whom face losing their homes in tough economic times.

"I think they were going to foreclose on the house, but they saw we meant business," said Steve Walden, an unemployed former factory worker who serves as chairman of the council.

The unemployed council is a volunteer civic organization sponsored by local churches, unions such as the city Electrical Workers and community groups. Its aim is to bring unemployment issues, such as unemployment benefit eligibility and foreclosure policies, into the public eye.

Mr. Walden and the other protesters sang anti-Mellon Bank songs at the company's Linthicum office during the Feb. 28 demonstration. He claimed that the negative publicity coerced the bank to rethink their "hard-headed policies."

But Mellon spokesman Mr. Butch, who had said on the day of the protest that the bank was being sensationally miscast as "the bad guys," said the bank was not interested in taking Ms. Sherrod's house.

Typically, foreclosure on a house is not an attractive option to a bank, Mr. Butch said. The foreclosed home must be maintained by the bank and it takes considerable time to find a buyer, he said.

"We're delighted to have reached an agreement, and we feel everyone is a winner," he said. "We feel we've arrived at mutually agreeable terms."

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