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Two Winston-Salem Firms Help Local Church Avoid Foreclosure

First Church Secretary Lisa Lash, left, with Pastor Bernie Cundiff, center, and Diana Santos Johnson, right.First Church of God in Christ is a thriving church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They have owned their worship space property – which contains a building valued at almost $1 million – for 23 years. Like most commercial real estate owners, First Church had a five-year term on the loan that was secured by their church property. When the term ended in February 2022, the lender was not willing to work with First Church to extend the term or give them additional time to refinance the loan, despite having an excellent payment history and substantial equity in the property.

Within a few months of the term due date, the lender filed a foreclosure action in Forsyth County. First Church initially contacted Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC to explore the possibility of filing bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure action. After determining that bankruptcy would not be the right fit in this situation and would be too costly, NCBA member attorneys Jennifer Lyday and Diana Johnson, along with the Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC bankruptcy team, decided to assist the church pro bono – without a charge – to delay the foreclosure action long enough for First Church to find another lender to refinance the loan.

“When I think of the power that a license to practice law signifies, I am always humbled and reminded of Luke 12:48: ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked,’” shares Jennifer Lyday. “It is my responsibility as an attorney to use my privilege for good.”

Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC attorneys also assisted First Church in submitting documents to the new lender and in explaining the new loan terms. Eventually, First Church was able to secure a ten-year term with a new lender and was able to obtain additional funds to replace their existing air conditioning units.

Explaining her motivation for taking on this pro bono matter, Diana Johnson explains, “I grew up in a small town in Eastern North Carolina where everyone was always happy to help a neighbor. We were moved to help First Church because it seemed like the legal system had failed them. They had done everything right – made their monthly loan payments on time and even met with a bankruptcy attorney before a foreclosure action was filed – but were close to losing their church. It did not seem fair, and we wanted to help them.”

Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC also coordinated with NCBA member attorney Patti Dobbins of Patti D. Dobbins Attorney at Law, PLLC, to do the refinance loan closing pro bono. Attorney Dobbins coordinated a closing date that was flexible for the First Church board, prepared the necessary closing documents, and filed all the necessary paperwork to complete the refinance. First Church was able to close on the new loan on August 25, 2022. After the new loan closed, the foreclosure action was dismissed, and First Church was no longer at risk of losing their church home of over 20 years.

First Church Pastor Bernie Cundiff stated, “Jennifer, Diana, and the team at Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC went the extra mile for us. They helped us every step of the way with excellence, and it was truly ‘The Hand of the Lord!’”

Lisa Lash, First Church Secretary, stated, “We have been extremely blessed to have worked with such an extraordinary team! Jennifer and Diana were truly engaged in every phase of the process. Equipped with all the knowledge necessary to complete a case such as ours, they guided us with professionalism and confidence – always there to support us with an eagerness to see us succeed. We will forever be grateful for their diligence, work ethic, and their sincere compassion for our church.”