Helping others: They mean business


Dennean Ferrell and Neo Love

May 05, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,Sun Staff

Dennean Ferrell is the founder and president of Alternative Housing Solutions, which helps secure housing for people with poor credit, and Neo Love is the company's vice president and director of finance. Before they dedicated their professional lives to helping others, Dennean and Neo helped each other through some difficult times.

And in an April 14 wedding, they promised to continue to support and assist each other as husband and wife.

The two met in 1997 in Alexandria, Va., when Dennean discovered the bagel shop across the street from her job as a legal secretary. Soon she was going in for coffee and a cinnamon bagel every morning and catching the eye of Neo, who was the shop's manager.

"The moment I laid eyes on her ... I had a serious crush on her," says Neo, 28, who was born in Milwaukee but spent much of his youth in Botswana and South Africa. He says, "I didn't have the courage to say anything to her."

"He has an intimidating demeanor," says Dennean, 37, who grew up in Capitol Heights. But one day she decided to ask him if he ever smiled. He smiled for her, and a friendship began.

The two hit it off very well, and would go for walks in Alexandria and talk or get ice cream near the waterfront. In time, Neo wanted to take Dennean on a date, but she was hesitant. Although she had been separated from her husband for some time, she was not divorced yet. A few months later, Neo asked her again if they could date. Dennean, nine years older than Neo and the mother of two teen-agers and two young children, told him, "I've got baggage."

"He said, 'I'll help you carry it,' " remembers Dennean, "and he has ever since."

For her part, Dennean brought out Neo's strength and compassion. "She always motivated me from Day One," says Neo. "She has always made me want to do better" professionally and personally.

Their romance grew once Dennean was divorced in 1999, but they faced other challenges. Dennean had financial difficulties, including poor credit, because of the divorce and had trouble finding an apartment. At the same time, her family questioned whether a young guy like Neo was the best match for her.

But Neo proved to be mature and caring. He helped Dennean rent an apartment in his name. He developed positive relationships with Dennean's children, and he won over her family.

"If it wasn't for his tenacity, and determination, we probably would not be together," says Dennean.

Dennean's turbulent financial experiences inspired her to help others who had difficulty finding housing because of credit problems. With financial and emotional support from Neo, she resigned from her job and used her retirement fund to start her business in May 2000. Now they have more than 200 clients.

Neo assisted Dennean part time until last year, when he joined the company. He has worked for several restaurants and wants to have his own some day, but he is happy for now to lend his financial expertise to Alternative Housing Solutions.

Working together is fun and stressful, says Dennean. "We continue to learn more and more about each other." They do talk about work when they are at home in a Silver Spring town house they bought in April. But they also like to relax together, go to movies, bowl and spend time with their family.

"I always wanted a fairy-tale wedding like Cinderella," says Dennean, who planned a formal, candlelit Christian ceremony with lots of flowers at the Cloisters in Brooklandville. Dennean's daughter, Patrice Myers, 17, was her maid of honor and Neo's brother, Dikeme Gofhamdimo, was his best man.

After the ceremony, they had dinner and danced to rhythm and blues, jazz and African music played by a disc jockey.

"The love that we have for each other, the respect that we have for each other, truly has stood the test of time," says Dennean.

Adds Neo, "I want this to last forever."

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