CIA rushes to help trailer home owners


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

NORTH LIBERTY — Catholics in Action volunteers left the Iowa City area in early July with one last project left to do — a wheelchair ramp in a North Liberty trailer home park. A group was scheduled to finish the project in mid-August.

Things didn’t quite go according to plan.

Lindsay Steele
Emma Davis, Jessica Cox and Erin Linnenbrink of St. Mary Parish in Oxford help site coordinator Mike Linnenbrink assemble a wheelchair ramp Aug. 1 in North Liberty. The girls were among seven youths who volunteered last-minute to help assemble the ramp.

In the late afternoon Tuesday, July 29, site coordinator Mike Linnenbrink received an unexpected phone call: the trailer owners said they faced eviction unless the ramp was finished by Friday. Considering the unfinished construction site a “safety concern,” Linnenbrink said the landlords required immediate completion of the ramp.


To Linnenbrink, the news was both surprising and startling, but he considered it a worthy challenge. With three days before the possible eviction, he scrambled to round up a group of adult and teenage volunteers and complete the ramp.

“I was pretty stressed when it came up,” he said. “But this is what we are called to do.”

Linnenbrink and other youth leaders sent out urgent emails and calls for volunteers. By Friday morning, seven high school-aged youths were on site to join Linnenbrink and deacon candidate Tom Hardie, a carpenter by trade, to complete the ramp.

“They were not worried about having all their ducks in a row,” Linenbrink said. “They just came. That’s what we’re called to do. I’m proud of these kids for changing their schedules and coming.”

Keaton Vance, 18, of St. Mary Parish in Oxford, had other plans Aug. 1, but decided to help after receiving an call from his former youth minister, Michelle Montgomery. “I’ve worked in (construction volunteering) for three or four years. She said they needed my help, so I came.”

Hardie said, “We can’t always choose what we are called to do. We have to react when the need is there.”

The homeowner, Ryn, who asked that her last name not be used, said she was grateful for the quick response to her family’s predicament. “They’ve always come through. (CIA) has been wonderful to our family. They listen to what we have to say and that means a lot.”

The family’s initial need for a ramp is a result of Ryn’s mother needing a wheelchair. Their insurance wouldn’t provide payment for a wheelchair unless a ramp was added to their home. But the family did not have the money to build the ramp on their own.

With the ramp, her mother will now be able to purchase the wheel chair and leave the home more than just “once or twice a month. It’s absolutely awesome,” Ryn said.

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