McLEAN — When Allyn and Kim Lauterbach return from their Hawaiian trip on Saturday, they likely won’t recognize the inside of their own home.
Volunteers are doing a makeover of their McLean house, in hopes it will be more livable for the family of four, two of whom have life-threatening illnesses.
“It’s such a sad situation,” said Lynn Barnett, a volunteer who is spearheading the effort.
Barnett met the family through her volunteer work through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that makes dreams come true for kids with life-threatening medical conditions. The Lauterbachs’ 11-year-old son, Weston, is recovering from surgery in April when three of four valves in his heart were repaired. The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted his wish for a trip to Hawaii. The family left Sunday and will return on Saturday.
His father, Allyn, was diagnosed with muscular sclerosis in 1988, and then developed oral cancer in 2002 and again in 2004. He’s been working on repairs for the house, but his health has not allowed him to complete the work, Barnett said.
When Barnett went to visit the family, she knew she had to do something.
“I just thought that the trip was fantastic, but what this family really needed was a makeover on the house,” she said. “Weston’s bedroom needed a lot of work and the kitchen did, too.”
So, Barnett started working the phones. She first received permission from the Lauterbachs. She recruited about 30 volunteers. She asked for donations. She went to businesses asking for in-kind labor and supplies.
“Her heart is way bigger than she is,” said one of those volunteers, Julie Cotter, of Lexington.
“There was a point, though, where I thought, ‘Oh God, what have I done?’” Barnett said. “But in my life, so many people have donated for me, and I just believed this was something I needed to do.”
For Barnett, it came at a time where she felt she needed to keep herself busy. Her own father, who had battled a serious illness, died last week. He was buried Saturday.
“I really needed this because so many people have been there for me and once we started this, no matter what, I was going to see it through,” she said.
The following morning, she reported early for work at the Lauterbachs’ home, beginning a stretch of what is likely to be six straight work days. Repairs will be made to the kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathroom, all on the top floor of the bi-level house.
Denny Monahan of Strawn was put to work early Sunday, working on the kitchen, removing the kitchen cabinets, stripping the walls and the flooring.
“When I was asked to help, I didn’t hesitate,” he said. “If Lynn is behind it, then you know it is something good.”
Cotter also took the chance to help.
“You always hear so much about helping kids in other countries and that is important,” she said. “But sometimes, you also have to look in your own backyard and reach out to someone who really needs the help here. This is one of those situations.”
Workers will be at the residence from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. this week and volunteers are encouraged to show up. Anyone interested can call 815-867-2752. Donations are also being accepted in McLean by calling Sherry Hester at 309-261-5401.