- Kind-hearted neighbours in New Jersey have become an example of what it means to love a neighbour as one's self
- Together, they raised more than $50 000 to pay off Lamar Harris, a neighbour's debt to save him from losing his home
- Lamar Harris moved into the Gloucester Township neighbourhood in New Jersey with his family 38 years ago and has since lived in the house
- Terri Fretz, one of the neighbours, set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to settle Lamar Harris' debts
When residents found out their neighbour, Lamar Harris, was weeks away from losing the home he'd grown up in, they rallied and raised $50 000 enough to pay off years of debt and keep their beloved neighbor close.
The neighbours say that to know Lamar Harris is to love him. He's lived in the same tight-knit New Jersey neighbourhood for most of his life and would pick up his neighbours' trash, deliver their mail and treat many of them like family, calling them daily and accompanying them for breakfast and haircuts.
Terri Fretz, a neighbour, said she's known Harris for 38 years, since his family moved to the Gloucester Township neighborhood.
Harris quickly endeared himself to residents, who called him the "Mayor of Cherry Hill" for the street where they live.
Fretz said he has developmental disabilities such as reading and writing delays, which Harris confirmed.
He's lived alone for five years since his father died, but he's handled it with the help of his neighbours, who said he has minimal expenses.
So when he received a legal complaint that threatened him with foreclosure as a result of unpaid taxes and interest payments, his friends scrambled to help.
"People don't understand what this home means to him," Fretz said.
She continued: "He loves his home, and we will fight until the very end to keep him there."
Fretz set up a GoFundMe page to settle his debts. She said she knew that friends would donate but doubted whether they could raise the "astronomical amount" in taxes to keep Harris' home.
But they did it, and in just one week. They raised enough to satisfy the lien and pay almost all of his 2019 taxes, largely thanks to strangers who read about his story and donated.
Harris was so thrilled when he heard he'd be able to stay in Cherry Circle, he called everyone on his street and met them in their yards to celebrate.
He said the residents of Cherry Circle are his "family."
"I got to church, and people come over here to help me clean," he said.
Gloucester Township Mayor David Mayer said Harris' summons was served by a private lien holder, and state and county officials were investigating ways to support him.
"We are compiling information as to the status of not only the property, but most importantly, the status and care of Mr. Lamar Harris," he said in a statement.
Once Fretz goes with Harris to pay the township, she'll plan how he can handle future finances and save some of his income from his part-time job at a local grocery store where he's worked for 20 years.
For Fretz, helping Harris out is not work for her, he has been a part of her life for almost as long as he's been alive.
It pays to be good to be people.
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