With the verbal promise of a temporary halt on the eviction of Parkwood Farms -- through the holidays, at least -- classes at the therapy center in Snellville will resume today, Nov. 27.
"We aren't going to be held hostage anymore by these proceedings," said owner Marilyn Peterson.
Volunteers are signed up and ready to go, and they're looking forward to this coming year.
After countless hours of phone calls, negotiations, and some admittedly bad press, Everhome Mortgage has agreed to halt the eviction process until after the holidays. On top of that, a longer term measure could be put in place on Dec. 6 through the Gwinnett County Superior Court.
And, the likelihood of a permanent solution is just around the corner; Peterson and bank representatives are discussing a negotiation that could result in the deed being put back in her name, with fair terms and conditions. Although the details are still being ironed out, the first step is to establish the fair market value of the property.
Community support has been vital in Peterson's battle. On Nov. 13, over 100 people gathered at the farm for a candlelight vigil to show their support of the work she and her volunteers do.
Most recently, on Monday, Nov. 26, Peterson and a group of supporters traveled to Atlanta to visit the law offices of Shapiro and Swertfeger, a group that represents the mortgage and lending industry and specializes in foreclosures. In fact, they won awards in 2008, 2009 and 2010 for their high level of success in moving foreclosures and evictions forward quickly.
Their goal was simple - put a face to the names behind the court case. The group held large copies of photographs of special needs students at the farm, winning medals and caring for the horses, telling their stories to whoever would listen.
Although they were not successful in gaining an audience with the lawyers, they felt that their purpose was served.
"This picture is of the Special Olympics team," she told members of the media outside the law offices of Shapiro and Swertfeger, displaying a picture of her students. "We take a team every year to the state games. We just want to make sure that this company understands that an eviction would put us out of business, and we wouldn't be able to provide these services to all these people."
They left behind ten photos, with the hope that the humanity of their situation would speak to the attorneys, and subsequently the banks.
For now, the center is open to the public again. Everyone is invited to come out at 3 p.m. on Nov. 27 to show their support, volunteer or simply watch the program in action.
"We're going to be doing what we do best," said Peterson, "to help children become the best they can possibly be."
For further reading:
- Community Joins to Save Parkwood Farms
- Community Unites to Save Parkwood Farms
- Candlelight Vigil at Parkwood Farms Draws Large Crowd
- Lilburn Riders Bring Home Top Medals in Annual Equestrian Event