BURTON — Highlighting a desperate need for support of the elderly, Richard Wiktorowski has been through the wringer over the last several years and with the assistance of his home care manager (who asked to be identified as Erica), and Genesee County Commissioner Ellen Ellenburg, they are now trying to rally the community to help him retain possession of the home he has lived in for 40 years.
In the last year Wiktorowski went through a series of hospitalizations and nursing home stays during which he lost track of his household bills. Before he knew it, he was in default on his mortgage and faced with an uncaring, confusing and hard to navigate legal system that wasn’t interested in taking into account his circumstances.
I got a notice, eviction really,” Wiktorowski said. He depends on his Erica to manage some things for him but she didn’t realize what was happening either but no one was taking care of his bills on a regular basis.
A member of the Holy Redeemer congregation, Wiktorowski said another church member Jim Vaughn helped him for some time but then grew terminally ill and passed away. The house eventually went to the county but no one answered his questions or told him what they were supposed to do.
“I didn’t understand the system,” Wiktorowski added and said he didn’t blame the judge. When you can’t keep track on a regular basis and you don’t know what’s going on; you know you just say, ‘leave it up to the Lord’”.
Erica reports that even though Wiktorowski is a very devout Catholic and she is a Baptist, they have been able to pray and share testimonies together and use their faith through the process—she herself having been through similar legal matters with her own home.
She believes that due to Vaughn’s health failing while he was helping Wiktorowski with the process they then found notices posted on the door. She actually called her attorney to try to help him but because of his frequent hospitalizations, Wiktorowski was unable to attend hearings or got required classes for bankruptcy and had no advocate to speak for him during the process of his home being sold out from under him.
The new owner is being represented by Fabrizio & Brook, P.C. per Erica and they have to have at least $31,000 to retain the home by a May 7 deadline, she said. They are asking for a little more in case there are unforeseen costs due to a per diem rate.
Wiktorowski said he paid $1,000 in property taxes recently to help keep the debt down. Erica said she is limited in what she can do as she has 30 other clients, eight staff, a full and a part-time job.
Wiktorowski retired from Bendle School District where he worked from 1966-1988. Ellenburg hopes once they get the mortgage paid, they can then set up a system online where his bills can be taken care of without the need of finding Wiktorowski transportation.
In addition to a Go Fund Me webpage (www.gofundme.com/help-keepmr wiktorowski-in-his-home?), there is a spaghetti dinner being planned at the Burton Eagles Aerie #3814 for April 9. Ellenburg hopes to charge a $10 fee and get the food donated.
“Burton is a really, really tight-knit community and they’re always there for one another,” she said. “Especially for a fellow resident who is down and out—they’re there to pick them back up. I am very proud to live in the City of Burton because of that.”
Ellenburg said she feels it is doable to find 350 people who could donate $100, or do whatever they can to help out. Wiktorowski also lives with and helps care for his sister Carol, 74, and Ellenburg says she remembers as a student herself how he was always on the look-out to help students who might not have had the support they needed at home.
One of those students became like a son to him and lived with him for several years, helping around the house and even repairing the roof, despite having a seizure disorder which eventually led to him passing away.
Wiktorowski hopes his home can be saved with the support of the community.