OKEECHOBEE — After a tornado destroyed her home in April of 2017, 87-year-old Joyce Bond had no choice but to leave Okeechobee and go live with her daughter, Victoria Lazarus, in Fort Lauderdale. Ms. Bond gave her daughter the insurance money from the tornado and control of her finances when she moved in with her, and things went well for about a year, until her daughter passed away unexpectedly. Now, Ms. Bond is being evicted from the home she was living in with her daughter. Ms. Bond said, “Suddenly, I have nothing.”
Because the mortgage on the home is so large, Ms. Lazarus’ son Kyle said there is no way he or his brother can afford to pay it. They tried at first to keep a renter in there so their grandmother could stay. At least the renter paid the utilities, but now the renter is gone, and neither brother can afford to make the payments on their own homes and an additional home which Kyle said is a very expensive beach home. They need to sell the house which is now on the verge of foreclosure, but they have not been able to do that because their grandmother is living there, and they don’t want to throw their own grandmother out on the street. Kyle said he tried to get her into assisted living, but she refuses to give up her dog. He and his brother are at their wits’ ends and have no idea what to do. She wants to live in her own place with her dog, he said, but they don’t have a way to make that happen.
Andrew Hansen heard about Ms. Bond through his mother. The women attended church together at the Fort Drum Community Church for 20 years, said Mr. Hansen. His mother was devastated, and wanted to help Ms. Bond, but didn’t know what to do. She is not very good with computers so Mr. Hansen offered to help. He created a GoFundMe page to help spread her story and try to raise funds to buy a trailer for her. The church has offered to provide electricity and water once a mobile home is purchased. So far, the GoFundMe has raised $1,715 of an $8,000 goal. The GoFundMe can be found by typing “Help Joyce regain her sense of normalcy” on Facebook.
Ms. Bond said she originally owned 50 acres in Okeechobee but sold most of it off. She was planning to live out the rest of her life in her home until it was destroyed by the tornado. She gave the insurance money to her daughter believing she would live with her for the rest of her life. “She would have taken care of me,” said Ms. Bond. “But, when she died, I had nothing left. That was the end of my support.”
She has been living in her daughter’s home now with no water for several weeks, and soon, the electricity will be turned off as well. “This has been hard,” she said. I am used to bathing every day. Yesterday, a lady came from a church and took me to take a shower.” Ms. Bond wants to come home to Okeechobee where her church and her friends are, but she doesn’t know how to make that happen. “I know there are empty houses and mobile homes there, but I don’t know how to find one,” she said. “What can I do at 87? I have all my wits about me, but physically, I can’t do much anymore.” She is grateful to her friends and pastor for all they have done to try to help her get back home.
Ms. Bond has a Great Dane named Lucy. Lucy has been a member of her family for 10 years and she said she can’t imagine giving her up. “She doesn’t know anyone else. She has always lived with me,” she said. Ms. Bond has raised Great Danes for the last 50 years.
Soon after starting the fundraiser, Mr. Hansen was in a serious ATV accident that resulted in him being trauma hawked to a hospital. He had a concussion, amnesia, couldn’t breathe and fractured several vertebrae, but he said thankfully he will recover in time and no long-term damage was done. “Time is something Joyce does not have though,” he said. “If there is anything I’ve learned in this traumatic experience is that life is short, and life isn’t about being self involved. It’s about changing lives around you for the better. If you want to show me support through this difficult time please do so by donating to Joyce’s cause. Please help Joyce spend her remaining years in peace and not homeless.”
When we are young and things like this happen, we can start over, said Mr. Hansen, but you don’t have that luxury at 87.
“I just want to come home,” said Ms. Bond. “I never imagined anything like this happening to me.”