Alta churches convene to lift a family in need

Friday, June 28, 2019
Rev. Denise Parrello of Alta has called on churches in town to help build a ramp for the the Larson family’s new home in Westview Trailer Court. Cynthia (second from left), carries her disabled 12-year-old Beauden (right of Cynthia), in and out of the home with stairs each day. Beauden and Cynthia, along with Nash (left), 11, and Schade (right), 17, were forced into the trailer under difficult circumstances. / Photo contributed

Four steps are a daily hurdle to Cynthia Larson and her son, Beauden. Every day, the mother carries her 72-pound 12-year-old up and down the stairs.

But soon, that may change.

“She said as she moved in, she wished she had a ramp,” said Rev. Denise Parrello, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and First Presbyterian Church in Alta.

The Larson family was forced out of their old rental home in Alta, pictured here, after the landlord defaulted on its mortgage. A Sheriff’s auction sold the property in April. Here, Beauden’s wheelchair was seen sitting out in front of the steps before they moved out. In that home, the landlord would not cooperate to accommodate Beauden’s disability. / Photo by Elijah Decious

Parrello has called on the Body of Christ in Alta to convene to help the family in need by fundraising about $2,500 to build a new ramp. Alta Kiwanis architect Glen Huntington has started drafting up the blueprints, and farmers have tentatively agreed to help build it over the summer before harvest time. All they need to do is buy the right materials.

Beauden’s wheelchair confinement from cerebral palsy hasn’t stopped Cynthia from giving her son a life of joy, on and off the wheels. Parrello witnessed it firsthand when she met the family at Trinity Lutheran Church’s National Night Out last summer.

There, she watched as Cynthia took Beauden out of his chair and into the bouncy house set up on the church lawn.

“They were having such a great time, you should have heard him laughing,” Parrello recalled. “It left an impression on me—not everybody would do that.”

But bouncy houses aren’t the only thing Beauden can’t enter without assistance. Without a ramp at their home, Cynthia carries him in and out every day to get over the stairs at the front door.

This means that Cynthia has to be there every morning and afternoon to help Beauden get in and out of the school bus during the school year, as nurses are not allowed to lift anything or anyone over 50 pounds. It makes a traditional work schedule difficult, and means she can’t work a full 40-hour week, as home nurses are only funded by state waivers for four days each week.

Cynthia told the Pilot-Tribune that in weeks during the school year, her work schedule has to be cut to as little as 20 hours per week to accommodate Beauden’s needs—a formidable challenge with three children.

So the Alta community is pulling together to make her life as much of a joy as she makes his.

The Larson family is facing a move to Westview Trailer Court in circumstances out of their control, since they found out their landlord defaulted on the mortgage. The Alta home was sold at a Sheriff’s auction in April.

As single mom Cynthia has worked overtime with her adult children and friends to whip a mobile home into livable shape, Parrello picked up on the need during conversation.

The Larsons have hit other road bumps in their move to the trailer. Cabinet and walls still need to be finished to make it a home.

Cynthia said she’s thankful for the grace others have had on her family. A liaison between her family and the bank has allowed the family to stay until the trailer is completely finished.

“He’s been kind,” she said.

In the single-family house, they couldn’t get the landlord to cooperate for installation of a ramp. In their trailer, the cost will be the barrier.

“It’s heartwarming that people would be willing to help with that,” Cynthia told the Pilot-Tribune.

It’s the church’s duty, Parrello said, to be present “for the least of these,” as Jesus challenged the church in Matthew 25:45: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

“Everything we do is a witness to who Jesus was,” Parrello said. “If people can see Jesus alive and well in the community around them, I think it builds us all up spiritually.”

The ramp, which will be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, is a simple thing that could make the family’s life a lot easier. Huntington is using his familiarity with compliance rules to ensure the ramp is up to code, with railing on both sides and correct inch-per-foot designations.

Several Alta congregations are joining Parrello’s parishioners to help make it a reality.

Other forces in their lives, like Beauden’s Medicaid, haven’t been as kind.

As United Healthcare pulls out of Iowa’s Medicaid privatization, Gov. Kim Reynolds suddenly requested the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven, Director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services—the man tasked with overseeing the transition of over 400,000 poor and disabled Iowans like the Larsons to one of the two remaining managed care organizations still left in Iowa.

Reynolds has refused to articulate her reasoning for the sudden change, telling the public only that it’s part of her vision to take the state in “a new direction.”

As certain state institutions for health care and social services fail the poor and disabled, Parrello says the church should play a more important role in helping those in need.

“The church was where it all started, where healthcare began,” she said. “If we’re not interested in each other’s health—physical, mental, spiritual, emotional—who else is going to be?”

For now, Beauden has been moved to Iowa Total Care, against Cynthia’s wishes. Medicaid recipients have until September to switch MCOs for any reason, but Beauden’s application for the only other MCO was rejected.

Cynthia says the rejection is suspicious, echoing the misgivings voiced by other disabled Medicaid recipients and their caregivers in the state.

She tried to get all of her children switched to Amerigroup. Nash and Schade, Beauden’s brothers, were accepted, but Beauden was not.

“You can go ahead and apply, but they’re just going to reject you,” she said of recipients like Beauden. “I truly believe that they aren’t taking anyone with a preexisting condition that would ‘drag them down.’”

And regardless of which MCO you get, she says the rigamarole starts all over again.

“They start saying you have to do this, or they deny that,” the mother said. “You just don’t know what’s happening.”

Editor’s note:

Those who wish to contribute to building a ramp for the Larsons can mail a check to any church in Alta. Make checks payable to the Alta Christian Association.