(Due to GoFundMe requirements...for more information about myself and my involvement, please see the very bottom)
Here is the story:
"I'm not looking for a handout," Chris Campbell said as he looked around an empty house with warped floors and water-stained walls.
"I'm looking for a hand up."
The run of bad luck for Ottawa native Chris Campbell and his family began April 18, 2013, as the skies opened up across Northern Illinois with torrential downpours that resulted in record-setting flood waters swamping both Utica and Marseilles neighborhoods.
Campbell's home in the 900 block of Deleon Street — set in the heart of Ottawa — was inundated as well with several inches of water pouring into the single-story house where they had lived since 2008.
"Later, that same week, as we tried to clean up, our bathroom floor collapsed," Campbell recalled. "It was such a disaster for us."
The house was not built with a proper foundation, and repairs were estimated to be about $68,000 — much more than the worth of the original structure.
Unable to afford moving from their home at that time, Campbell, his wife, Kim, and their blended family — six children ages from 1 month to 18 years of age — remained in the damaged home for many months. During that time, they were forced to use a portable toilet in the yard through much of the frigid 2013-14 winter season.
The family also had to use a shower during those months in a garage of a neighbor.
Campbell, 42, said he applied to and received "just a few thousand dollars" from the Federal Emergency Management Agency but was denied any further assistance from the agency despite filing several appeals.
"We did receive and were very grateful for a $300 Visa gift card arranged by Kent Terry and the Marseilles flood relief folks, but it went fast for food and supplies," said Campbell. They relied on the Ottawa Food Basket to supplement some of their meals.
He said he called Ottawa's City Hall, state legislators, local banks, the Red Cross of America and the United Way for help to little or no avail. He even applied to the ABC television program, "Extreme Makeovers," without success.
"I tried everyone and any place I could think of."
Campbell, who works for a Northern Illinois soft drink distributor, said he and his family did their best on small repairs to the home's floors, but eventually other areas of the house soon started to deteriorate.
By February 2014, the family decided they had to move from the crumbling home and felt lucky to find an affordable house for rent ($600 per month plus utilities) in Wedron.
"Things were going OK in our new place until, a few months back, the tap water started to smell like gas (the village has had a well-known underground water pollution problem) and took on a brownish appearance," he said.
The family had to start using bottled water, showering at relatives' houses and hauling water up from Ottawa to Wedron.
"We can't cook, drink or bathe in the water we had there," he said.
"And about that same time, we took our youngest daughter to the doctor and were shocked to find out she had high levels of lead in her system. Now we must find another place that is big enough for all of us at a cost we can afford or move back to the Ottawa home. It is becoming a desperate (health) situation for us."
He said his wife and their baby daughter, as well as his daughter and her recently born baby son, were staying with local relatives until they can again live together under the same roof after moving into the Deleon Street house Thursday evening.
Campbell said he recently spent most of his small savings on getting the electrical power, gas and water turned back on in his damaged Ottawa home and has been doing slight repairs to make it somewhat livable again. He admitted the structure may have an existing mold problem, but "that's a chance we'll have to take."
To add to the family's woes, Campbell's tools and some ceiling fan lights were recently stolen from the empty home.
Standing in the Ottawa home with tears in his eyes, Campbell — a man of faith who reads the Bible every night — repeated he wasn't telling his story to ask for charity.
"All I want is a safe, dry place for my family to live and my baby to grow up in without worrying about things," he said. "If someone or some place could loan me some money, I would pay them back. I guess it could be worse. We still have each other. We're still together as a family."
Campbell said his personal faith has been shaken but not lost.
"My family and I love Christmas and we need to get a tree up in our old home or wherever we end up. That is one of our main things we have to do as soon as we're able — decorate a tree together."
My name is Mike Finnegan and I reside in Ottawa IL with my wife and daughter. I am originally from Streator IL, and I have previously lived in Bloomington IL where I have been an accountant in various capacities for the past ten years.
I have yet to personally meet Chris and Kim Campbell and their family, though I have been in contact with Chris as well as his son, Nick. I simply read the story on facebook, as written by Steve Stout of The Times Newspaper, and wished to help in some capacity.
There is still discussion to be had on how these funds will be spent. As noted, the estimated repairs are over $68,000 and while this money will certainly help, it is far from alleviating the problem. We will certainly look into repairs, alternate housing, etc. But the ultimate goal will be to get the Campbells into a secure dwelling where they can safely be together as a family.
The intent is that myself, along with my family and Steve, will present the funds to the Campbells prior to Christmas. This has all happened rapidly and is still developing, but I assure you all, they will receive every single penny.
For more transparency on this situation and my involvement, please see my facebook page which can be found by using the facebook search bar and entering mike.finnegan3 All of the posts I have made regarding this mission have been made public. You can also read about my involvement here:
I want to wish a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has donated, shared the story, offered help, or said a prayer for this family. On behalf of them, God bless you all.
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