By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Virginia Linker’s mobility and spirits were shattered two years ago after suffering a stroke. Without a wheelchair-accessible ramp to get in and out of her trailer at Regency Mobile Home Park, she was “stuck inside,” unable to do simple tasks like checking the mail, said her son and caregiver Casey Lindus.
On June 29, Lindus wore a grateful smile as he helped high school students and adult volunteers from the Catholics in Action program build a ramp for his mother’s trailer. His mother cried tears of joy. “She can be free again. We call it her freedom ramp,” he said, noting that as much as he wanted a ramp for his mother, it was not something he could have afforded or built on his own.
Catholics in Action (CIA) provides high school students in the Diocese of Davenport an opportunity to volunteer with in-need organizations and individuals in the Iowa City area for three days each summer. The work ranges from cleanup and construction in mobile home parks to cooking meals for not-for-profits and spending time with the elderly. This year, the 75 students and 19 adults started their three-day service mission at Regency Mobile Home Park and Forrest View Trailer Park before branching off to other projects.
One group of students helping out at Regency Mobile Home Park worked alongside a familiar face this year: Jordan Caperone, now 10. Last year, the group built a wheelchair ramp for his family trailer to improve Jordan’s mobility — he was born with a condition that requires him to use a wheelchair. This year, Jordan wheeled up and down the ramp with a big smile on his face, seeming to enjoy the company of volunteers working inside and outside his home to build and install new laminate flooring for the trailer. Jordan said the existing floor is bumpy and makes it hard to get around.
Father Corey Close, parochial vicar of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, has worked with the volunteers at Jordan’s trailer for two years. He said it was rewarding to see the young volunteers interacting with Jordan again. “It’s nice to see them building on that relationship,” he said, adding that their relationship with Jordan exemplifies the Bible’s teaching that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore we have a responsibility to help others in need.
Since CIA began doing work at Regency Mobile Home Park four years ago, the landscape has improved. Gone are the abandoned
trailers that once lined the property. Some of this has been done by CIA volunteers; other work has been done by volunteers from St. Joseph Parish in nearby Hills. Management has also taken steps to improve the quality of life at the park.
Aaron DeJoode, 17, of St. Mary Parish in Pella, has noticed not only a change in appearance since he started volunteering three years ago, but also a change in the residents. He said they are more receptive to accepting help, and doing what they can to help improve the trailer park. “They know what we’re all about and want to be part of it,” he said.
Ben Snyder, 18, a fourth-year-volunteer from St. James Parish in Washington, said that although conditions have improved a bit, he still finds it hard to see people living in poverty. “We’re here to do something meaningful in a situation that is very sad,” he said.
Money is often tight for the residents, as it is for CIA. Students pay $40 to participate in CIA, but that fee does not cover the cost of dumpsters and lumber. Adult volunteers, including deacon candidates and members of nearby St. Joseph Parish in Hills, made the construction projects possible through their fundraising efforts. They procured a $3,000 grant from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, $3,000 in a private donation from Lanny and Jan Kampfe, $1,000 from Hills Bank, $400 from St. Joseph Parish, and $1,500 from the diocesan Social Action office.
“The money was easy to raise because people see such a great need,” said St. Joseph parishioner and seminarian Terry Ball, who lives a mile from Regency and used to work as a schoolteacher for many of the residents alongside his late wife, Mona.
“We (CIA) have a good reputation, and people really want to be giving when they know things are happening,” he said.