By Georgiana Francisco | Correspondent
Years after losing his beloved wife, Phyliss, 74-year-old Joseph Badame of St. Mary of the Lakes, Medford – a Knights of Columbus member, a longtime parish ministry volunteer and a survivalist – was about to lose his home.
Facing foreclosure due to massive expenses incurred while caring for an ill Phyliss before she died in 2013 from a stroke, Badame, a mild-mannered, highly educated architect by trade, hired a local company to manage an estate sale at the end of September in an effort to empty the house of its contents, which included everything one would need in case of a disaster or economic collapse – coal furnaces and kerosene refrigerators, barrels of food and medical supplies.
It was at the sale that he met Victoria Martinez-Barber and her husband, Anthony Barber, who were there not to buy, but to sell food via a food truck in order to raise money for their family in Puerto Rico who were left homeless by Hurricane Maria. The couple had also set up a GoFundMe page.
Badame donated $100 to their empty hurricane relief jar hoping to get others to do the same. The three began to talk, and, as if in answer to both their prayers, Badame told the couple that he and Phyliss had been “doomsday preppers” and had spent decades, as well as almost a million dollars, preparing their home for the worst. As a result, there were literally tons of food and medical supplies in the house he was vacating.
When he showed the couple the lead-lined, subterranean bunker in which he and his wife had stored 80 barrels of rice, flour, sugar, beans, powdered eggs, pancake mixes and more for family and friends – enough to sustain 84 people for four months – “their jaws dropped,” Badame said.
“These are the foods my family in Puerto Rico lives on,” Badame recalled Martinez-Barber saying in amazement. His response was, “If you can take it, you can have it all.”
Through Martinez-Barber’s tenacity and help from friends, 40 barrels of food were flown to Puerto Rico for free. The other 40 barrels were left behind with the couple thinking they could ship them by boat.
In the meantime, Badame purchased a trailer home in which to live, but had nowhere to place it or tie into an energy source. Wanting to return the blessing given to them, Martinez-Barber and her husband invited Badame to set his home on their property.
“This was an incredible turn of fate,” he said, “but more importantly, it was a testament to our faith.”
That faith played a part again, when in the past week, the couple arranged to get the second 40 barrels of aid to Puerto Rico thanks to help from Anthony Barber, a military policeman at Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst, and his fellow officers and friends, who secured the use of a tractor-trailer large enough to load containers on ships.
“We’re hoping this food will reach the mountainous and out-of-the-way places where the government has not been able to get food or supplies and possibly never will,” Badame said.
“Both Victoria and I believe it was divine intervention that allowed us to meet so perfectly at a time when she was desperate to help her family in Puerto Rico,” he said. “She showed up at the estate sale with her food cart and an empty jar for donations and ended up with 80 barrels of food and supplies God provided for her native Puerto Rico in a time of tragedy.
“This meeting wasn’t by chance. I found kindness, a new family to help care for and a new purpose in life,” he said. “Surely this is how God allows his plan to manifest.”