The Money Crunch: Broken Arrow family facing foreclosure launches 'project carrot cake' rescue plan
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
3/23/12 at 12:14 PM
Find information on ordering a carrot cake from the
Douthitts or volunteering to help bake or deliver
Editor's Note: The Money Crunch is an occasional series on how people and families are struggling in the post-recession economy.
Kim Douthitt was tossing and turning one night, unable to sleep and worried about her family's financial woes, when the idea came to her: carrot cakes.
"I know how we can save our house," she told her husband, Mike.
The Douthitts were about seven months behind on their mortgage and facing foreclosure. Their mortgage servicing company, Ocwen Loan Servicing, told them if they went into foreclosure, they would qualify for an assistance program. But the Douthitts made phone call after phone call and could never get anyone to help them.
Then they found their house listed on an upcoming sheriff's sale for foreclosed homes.
So they decided to bake their way out. If they could get donations for ingredients and sell 400 of Kim's beloved carrot cakes to enough friends, co-workers and church buddies at $30 each, they might have enough money to get their home off the auction block.
The middle class is shrinking, sliding down the income ladder, and many of those in it have no financial safety net.
More than 1 in 4 Oklahoma residents have almost no savings or other assets to weather a financial crisis, according to a recent study released by the national nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development.
The 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard ranks Oklahoma 33rd overall for the financial stability of its residents.
In Oklahoma today, 26.9 percent of households are "asset poor," meaning they have little or no financial cushion to rely on if unemployment or another emergency leads to a loss of income, according to the report.
Here is how that happened for the Douthitts: They got by just fine, raised three children and paid their bills.
In recent years, there was a family crisis that adversely affected their finances: One of their daughters got caught up in drugs, and her three children suffered as a result. The Douthitts fought their daughter for custody of their grandchildren a few years ago, for which they spent money on lawyers.
The grandchildren lived with the Douthitts for a while, and then the courts granted custody back to the mother after she took steps toward sobriety.
And like many Americans in 2008, Mike Douthitt lost a job that paid well. He wasn't without work long and now has a job that he loves at Clarehouse, a nonprofit hospice, but he hasn't been able to get his income back to pre-2008 levels.
The 2010 Census says the middle class is made up of the 60 percent of Americans with annual household incomes from $20,001 to $110,065. After-tax income for people in that group has grown over the past three decades, but at a substantially smaller rate than it has for the richest 1 percent of Americans.
But health care and other living expenses keep rising, and middle-class families feel that pinch.
Last year, the Douthitts' daughter relapsed, and their grandchildren ended up in DHS custody in another state, and they had to hire lawyers once again to regain custody.
"If it's a choice, do you pay your lawyers to get the grandkids or do you pay the bills - there's no choice," Mike Douthitt said.
Kim can't work full time because of an illness, and she now cares for her three grandchildren - ages 5, 7 and 9 - when they're not in school.
"Last year, we were doing OK - if we didn't have anything come up, any emergencies," Kim Douthitt said. "There was no safety net. People don't have that nowadays."
And now, they're feeding and clothing three children, paying for psychologists and counselors to heal some difficult emotional scars the kids have, trying to keep their lives as stable as possible, they said.
Icing on the cake
It started with family, friends and a Facebook page, but it was the kindness of strangers that made "project carrot cake" something of a phenomenon.
The Douthitts got donations from Sam's Club, Walmart, Reasor's, Thomas Brothers Produce, Tulsa Mothers of Multiples and others to help with the expense of ingredients. Christ Church Episcopal, where they attend services, allowed them to use the church kitchen for baking and spread the word through other Episcopal churches' newsletters.
Volunteers started showing up to help bake, and they had 400 orders within 10 days. They're still taking orders, but it may take awhile to get all the cakes out. They still need volunteers, too.
"I was really humbled that all these folks were willing to help us," Mike Douthitt said. "We really believe that the only way we're going to be able to make it is if we do something on our own. We owe it to these children."
Maybe they could use this experience to teach their grandchildren a lesson about hard work, they said.
They couldn't rely on the mortgage company to help them, they said. And they're not optimistic of any politician's promises to bring aid to the middle class, in a campaign year when millionaires seeking political office and re-election are trying to woo a demographic that is struggling to make ends meet.
"I'm neither a Republican or Democrat," Mike Douthitt said. "I don't believe the government can solve our problems anymore."
At this point, he'll vote in 2012 - but he doesn't yet know for whom.
"I don't think they can help me, any of them," he said.
Original Print Headline: Recipe to rescue a house
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
Kim Douthitt removes a carrot cake from its pan at her church at Christ Church Episcopal. Kim and her husband, Mike, are experiencing financial strain like many middle-class families, but their situation is especially strained after taking in three of their grandchildren because of a family crisis. They are making and selling some of Kim's beloved carrot cakes with help from other volunteers to church friends, and the response has been overwhelming. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Volunteers Shelly Witt (left), Karen Horton and Debbie Jones, all of Tulsa, prepare carrot cakes at Christ Church Episcopal in Tulsa. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Kim and Mike Douthitt have a car full of carrot cakes that they hope will help get their family out of a financial crisis. They were on the verge of losing their home after job changes and taking in three grandchildren. So they decided to make and sell some of Kim's carrot cakes with help from other volunteers and church friends. The response has been overwhelming. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World