Brian Lohse Has the Floor
Lottery winner shares his own housing story
Bondurant residents Brian and Mary Lohse know firsthand what it feels like to have a home in foreclosure, and to be unable to afford navigating the legal loopholes around refinancing. Today, the couple has showered their community and Polk County with donations from their 2012 Iowa Lottery winnings, including a recent contribution to the Polk County Housing Trust Fund. Brian spoke with us about their financial journey and how they hope to help ensure that no family in our community has to worry about where they or their children will be sleeping tonight.
Q. How did you first hear about the Polk County Housing Trust Fund?
A. I learned about it through Polk County supervisor Steve Van Oort. My wife and I had always talked about helping those who were struggling with housing costs and making mortgage payments like we had before we won the lottery. We didn’t want to put a bandage on things. Steve connected me with Eric Burmeister on a trip to Washington, D.C., which is when I learned about the Polk County Housing Trust Fund.
Q. In providing the $25,000 grant to PCHTF, you asked it be directed to the work of Habitat for Humanity and Iowa Legal Aid – why was that?
A. We decided to gift money this way because of our own experience. Yes I had a good job, but we had student loans, a mortgage, three growing kids and struggled to make our house payment. We ended up buying our house and weren’t told the correct amount for our monthly payment. We tried to refinance it, tried to get a modification, but working through those issues was a struggle and we faced foreclosure a couple of times.
It’s a balancing act that we found ourselves in 10 years ago and we believe many others do, too.
We wanted to support the educational piece that helps with how to budget properly and all that goes in to understanding how to own a home. We also want to help people work their way through the modification and foreclosure process, because it’s a daunting task. Iowa Legal Aid helps people find a way out of such a situation and keep their home.
Q. How do you decide where to share your winnings?
A. We’ve really tried to focus on addressing a lot of needs around the metro. We worked with the Animal Rescue League, homeless shelters, youth shelters and food pantries. Two of my boys really want to help those less fortunate. My middle son is very active in sports, so we also focus on sports-based programs, the Courage League field and Miracle League field in downtown Des Moines and Ankeny. We’ve of course supported our church, built the Brick Street Market & Café in Bondurant and assisted the local school by helping with facilities improvements and giving each teacher a small grant to help purchase supplies. My mom is a teacher and she always was buying things for her classroom out of pocket.
Q. How heartwarming is it to know how much help you’ve given others thanks to your good luck on that fateful day when Mary popped in to the gas station and bought a Powerball lottery ticket worth $202 million on Sept. 26, 2012?
A. We receive thank you notes on occasion and it makes you feel very good that you’re able to help. Sometimes we wish we could do even more, but it’s still a great feeling. To some degree, we feel a certain amount of responsibility to help others, which we believe is why this was given to us.
Q: Thank you for your gift to the Housing Trust Fund. Closing thoughts?
We’ve experienced the uncertainty of not knowing whether you’re going to be in your home the following week or month and what a huge burden it adds to you, especially when you’re a parent. Every day it’s there – impacting your health, your relationships, your children’s education, your employer. But having a stable environment, one you can afford and know that you can stay in until you choose to leave it and not be forced out, that makes this world a great place.