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A Pro Bono Experience: Assisting First Church of God in Christ in Stopping the Foreclosure of Their Church 
By: Diana Santos Johnson

Attorney Diana Santos Johnson

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, 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.

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.

Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC also coordinated with 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.”

Pro Bono Initiatives at Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC
Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC is committed to serving the most vulnerable in our society with legal, social, and economic issues through pro bono service. The firm regularly provides pro bono representation to individuals and non-profit entities in need. The firm’s attorneys look for opportunities to use their education and experience to be of service to their fellow North Carolinians and take to heart their professional obligations as lawyers to make a difference.

About Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC
Attorneys at Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC are experienced in assisting commercial property owners avoid foreclosure, and our team can guide you to the best possible resolution of your business’ financial problems.

Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC is a business law firm focused on bankruptcy, commercial transactions, healthcare, commercial real estate, litigation, mediation, education law, and municipal law. Through our highly experienced attorneys, we serve clients with efficiency and expertise, both inside and outside of the courtroom.

Our firm employs a different approach – one that is client-centric and encourages a collaborative team culture that is data driven, tech-enabled, and multidisciplinary. We focus on offering solutions to our clients, which involves selecting the right attorneys in our firm to guide your specific business and legal needs. With Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC, you don’t just hire an attorney, you engage the expertise of our entire firm.

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