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Renaissance rallies around family forced from house by mold

CASTLE ROCK – It is an unimaginable decision for a parent to have to make—leave your house and everything they own or risk the health of their family. That is the situation one Renaissance Elementary Magnet School family faced this spring after learning that mold had infiltrated their home and sickened them. Thanks to the kindness of the Renaissance school community, the Shellenberger family has been able to get back on its feet and have the strength needed to cope with the massive disaster inside their home.
“The community has been unbelievable,” said Julie Shellenberger. “This has been an extremely difficult time for our family and we truly appreciate everything. Every note, every hug, every ‘you’re going to make it,’ every donation, everything has meant the world to us.”
The family of six, including four beautiful children—Graham (10) Grace (7) Trig (2) and Tate (1)—was forced from their house in March, just two days before Spring Break, when they learned that it had toxic levels of black mold.
“Those first two or three days were in complete shock, not knowing what to do,” Shellenberger said. “We literally left our home, locked the door, drove to Target and bought new clothes, new shoes, new toothbrushes—you know, the very basics. We checked into a hotel and
threw away the clothes on our backs.”
The entire family has been struggling with unexplained health issues over the past few years.  More recently their toddler Trig, who was born with a heart defect and underwent open-heart surgery when he was four months old, has become more and more sick.  His health issues have become more acute and doctors have struggled to find answers for the increasing myriad of health issues that have been plaguing the entire family. 
As a last ditch effort to find the cause of their medical issues Julie and her husband Ryan had their home air quality tested and that is when they discovered the mold contamination.
“We immediately had answers to all of our health issues and not just our toddler but the rest of us as well. Finally the last few years started to make sense,” Shellenberger said. “As devastating as it was to have to leave our home and everything in it, on the other hand we were very relieved to finally figure out what was going on.”
They were advised to immediately vacate the house and abandon all of their belongings, because of the mold spores and mycotoxins, which had permeated just about every item they own.  
To make things worse, a call to their insurance company revealed a claim could not be filed because they did not have a mold rider. After further investigation it appears that the mold was caused by poor workmanship by the original homebuilder, which caused a slow leak from the roof. The homebuilder has since gone bankrupt, leaving the family to fend for itself.
The Shellenbergers, who say they usually prefer to be on the giving, rather than the receiving end, reluctantly reached out to the school and the administrators put out a note regarding the family’s situation.
“It was absolutely wonderful,” said Renaissance secretary Andrea Bollman. “It shows we are truly a community. We are Crew—became a realization at that point. We pull together and we help out. Everybody does what they can.”
“The very next day there were already some of their classmates that were bringing them toys and ‘snugglies’—little stuffed animals—things of theirs from home and giving them to my kids and saying, ‘this was really special to me, I hope it helps you,’ Shellenberger said. “It was overwhelming. Kids have so much heart at such a young age.”
That was only the beginning of the community’s generosity. Families on vacation opened up their homes to the family, whose kids had only begun attending Renaissance this year.
“Talk about being humbled and overwhelmed. It was just unbelievable to have a complete stranger offer up their house, the clothes, and their cars,” Shellenberger said.
Renaissance parent Cheryl Dallas and librarian Diana Hyland, along with other parents and staff members, recruited and coordinated donations. Amazingly, they were able to find a home for rent in the neighborhood, where the family could stay—as well as the many other necessities.
“People just started dropping things off and within a number of days we were able to function by having our basic needs meet—all through the school community,” Shellenberger said.
“We want to say thank you, but yet, we don’t feel the words thank you are enough,” she added. “There are not words—I wish there was something more than thank you that we could say. We are truly at a loss for words.”
Unfortunately, the family is still working to clean up the mess at their home. They’ve hired industrial hygienists, immuno-toxicologists and mold remediators, but in most cases they’ve found that it is just best to start fresh. 
“Most of the items are not cost effective to clean,” Shellenberger said.
So far they’ve had three dumpsters to carry their belongings away. They’re still sorting through important documents and family keepsakes, determining which to save.
“There are certain things we just couldn’t deal with, yet. We put it in the POD,” Shellenberger said. “We call the POD our emotional buffer. We know we’re going to have to get rid of it or deal with it, but I just can’t describe to you how difficult it is to inventory and destroy every item in your home.”
“I don’t mean to minimize the devastation of a wildfire, but many times we’ve said we wish we had just had a fire,” she added.
Sadly, throughout this process, the Shellenbergers have come across other families that have faced similar situations. Julie hopes sharing their tragedy will help others who might have mold and not even know it.
“It gives us an opportunity to share our story to help other people not have to wait three or four years of being sick. Maybe they can get healthy quicker.
Learn more about the Shellenbergers and see photos of the clean up process at
June 4, 2013 | By Anonymous | Category: Communications

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