By Anne Marie Amacher
LONG GROVE — What began as an Advent project to help a family in need continued into a Lenten project for St. Ann parishioners in Long Grove.
Christine Cauwels, co-chair of the church life/family life committee at the parish, said parishioners first got involved prior to Christmas while looking at a wish list in the Quad-City Times. The wish list sought items for families in need in the Quad-City area.
“Families were nominated by agencies in the area and United Way screened the families,” Cauwels said.
“This one family caught our attention,” she added. “The father had a flesh-eating disease and he and his family were new to the area. He had surgery at the University of Iowa (Hospitals and Clinics) and had to have skin grafts. His fiancé was pregnant and they had a 6-year-old.” The father couldn’t work and needed so much help, she added.
The family of Brian McGregor and Desiree Lorsung had a wish list, but St. Ann’s wanted to do more. So Cauwels contacted the Genesis Visiting Nurses’ Association that had nominated the family.
As a result, since Advent and continuing through Lent, St. Ann parishioners have assisted the family in a variety of ways – with financial donations and items needed.
Lorsung said St. Ann Parish “is a blessing to us. They have given us so much.”
She had signed up for the wish list so that her son, who was 6 at the time, could have a good Christmas.
When the parish decided to adopt the whole family and help with their needs, it was more than they could have hoped for.
“They (St. Ann’s) have really been amazing,” Lorsung said. “Here was a church we never went to that wanted to help complete strangers.”
Lorsung said she and McGregor, who is a union carpenter, decided to move to the Quad-City area late last summer for better job opportunities.
McGregor had not started a new job yet when he woke up one morning with a stiff neck, Lorsung said. The stiffness got worse and his neck started to swell. “His neck looked like that of a bodybuilder; it got so big.” By 2 p.m. they were in the emergency room. At 5 p.m. McGregor was admitted to Genesis West hospital. By 1 a.m. he was on his way to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and admitted into the intensive care unit.
The only cure for the flesh eating disease is to remove the infected skin and tissue, Lorsung said. The bacteria affected McGregor’s back, chest and neck.
“He is definitely better now, but will never be quite the same.”
McGregor is physically able to do work now and is looking at full-time employment.
Throughout this crisis, the family incurred many bills that they were not able to pay because McGregor did not have a job.
But St. Ann’s has helped the family with financial donations. “Their hospital bills are now paid off and their gas/electric and phone bills are caught up,” Cauwels said.
Parishioners throughout the project have donated items such as a crib, mattress, breast pump, baby carrier, clothes for the family’s newborn daughter and 7-year-old son, and a basketball hoop, all of which had been on a wish list the family provided.
One item not on the list was a digital camera a parishioner had received and did not need. Cauwels said she called Lorsung who was more than willing to accept the camera.
Parishioners bring donations to the parish and the church life/family life committee gets them to the family.
Some parishioners who couldn’t afford to donate items or cash found other ways to help out. A display board at the parish has prayers and other notes posted for the family.
One parishioner meets with the family to advise them on how to make nutritious, affordable meals. Another parishioner donated some beef. The parish held a Euchre party featuring soup and pizza to raise money for the family’s bills, Cauwels noted.
Cauwels said one parishioner has faithfully donated $5 a week for the family. “He had been in a tough situation himself at one point and this was his way of repaying someone back. The outpouring of support from the parish has been wonderful. The project just took off when we announced it.”
Lorsung added, “I had faith in my religion and St. Ann’s gave that faith a whole new meaning. I can’t say enough thank yous. They have been incredible.
“Without their help, I don’t know where we would be.”