By Charmain Z. BrackettOctober 12, 2010
FORT GORDON, Ga. -- Fort Gordon's housing program director didn't spend much time reveling in her Superior Civilian Service Award.
"I'm thinking 'Did I do enough'' and 'Is it really going to help,''" said Mary Scott, whose work to educate Fort Gordon service members on the housing crisis led to a major agreement between the Army and several top mortgage lenders and receiving an award at the Pentagon.
On Monday, Sept. 27, Army leaders signed a memorandum of commitment with Fannie Mae lenders which provides a forbearance of up to six months when the death or injury of a service member causes a financial hardship to the family and sets up a special hotline for service members experiencing hardship because of required moves. Also, credit bureau reporting will be suspended during the six month forbearance period.
Col. Glenn Kennedy, Fort Gordon's garrison commander, praised Scott's work.
"Mary Scott's tremendous efforts are just another example of the hard work that is being done every day to improve the lives of our Soldiers and their families. Mary Scott's work began as a Fort Gordon initiative but was quickly recognized as being so critical to our Soldiers and Families that it was adopted by ... the Army and resulted in the Armywide Mortgage Assistance Program."
"The ceremony that took place at the Pentagon recognized Mary's superior dedication to the Army family," Kennedy added.
Scott's efforts began in June 2009 when she held a forum with lenders, service members and community organizations to discuss issues particular to the military.
"At the onset of the housing market crisis, I saw that people on the outside had assistance available," she said.
However, she didn't see the same types of services available in the military.
When Scott invited banking industry leaders to that first event, she didn't think they'd show up.
"I was hopeful if nothing else that the lending industry would come to understand the uniqueness of military homeowners. They are different than the average homeowner," she said.
One key problem had to do with mandated moves. While some people in the civilian sector could wait months and years for their homes to sell, servicemembers don't have that luxury because of their service related obligation to move to where the military sends them, said Scott.
Many servicemembers arrived Fort Gordon having left their families behind because they could not sell their homes.
Scott partnered with organizations in the Augusta, Ga., area including Fannie Mae lenders and the Augusta Economic Opportunity Authority to show Soldiers what types of assistance is available to keep them from having a home go into foreclosure.
"I wanted to provide them with the same services available to the civilian community," she said.
Scott held three of these events designed to provide information and education for Soldiers, and they received attention higher up.
Last November, a committee was put together to bring Scott's ideas to benefit all service members. Negotiations resulted in a Sept. 27 signing.
Scott said she received a lot of help within the garrison command group especially from Kennedy and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Schehl. Also, Sgt. Maj. Glen Williams was instrumental to her quest.
Despite the progress, Scott said she wonders if there was something else which could have been done. Not long after she received her award, she received an email from a Fort Gordon Soldier who is upside down on a mortgage on a home in Arizona. He can't sell it or rent it for what he owes.
"I just keep chugging along," said Scott, who is continuing to work on behalf of that Soldier to find the answers.