Despair city: Mold house family moves in
While Charlottesvillians scrambled to send aid to those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, Ros Casey focused on a devastated family closer to home: Larry Butler and Judit Szaloki, unfortunate new home owners of the notorious "mold house."
Since purchasing the residence at 2207 Wayne Avenue in February, the couple and their four children have been on a downward spiral, owning a mold-infested and uninhabitable home while facing eviction from a house they could no longer afford to rent.
Good Samaritans stepped in when they learned of the Butlers' plight in the Hook's March 31 cover story. The house was cleaned– but ridding it of toxic mold and rotted wood meant taking it down to the framing and obliterating the bathroom and kitchen.
Contractor Bob Fenwick "adopted" the family and has been working to repair their gutted home so they could move in, which they did around September 10. Without a working kitchen and air conditioning, Szaloki describes their present version of the American dream as "like camping."
"We had to move because we couldn't afford the rent," she says. "It was not the right thing to do to stay there."
In August, Butler and Szaloki sent their children to live with other families in the school district of their new house while the couple planned to move into Butler's business, Uncle Larry's Toy Store, in an effort to stave off bankruptcy and keep that business going until the busy Christmas season.
Rosamond Casey, whose children used to be cared for by Szaloki, was appalled by their situation. She placed an ad in the Hook and posted flyers around town asking for volunteers for that final push to get the family into their house.
Over the Labor Day weekend, "I just dragooned a bunch of people," says Casey. "Friends and I spent two days sheet-rocking the basement."
"Rosamond Casey has given us a shot of energy," says Fenwick, who documented the whole moldy story on his website, HomeWorkwithBobFenwick.com. "The Butlers went through a bad time, and they're being hounded by everyone. They flat-lined and had to farm out their kids."
Casey has rounded up contributions of floor tiles and appliances for the kitchen, and she wants to get the basement finished so Szaloki can re-start her in-home daycare business. (When word of the mold house got around, many parents removed their children from her care.)
"She's so good at what she does and so talented," says Casey. "I want to set up a place where she can make a living."
Yet the agony continues. Szaloki's Jeep was repossessed September 8, and the family's phone was turned off. She says Larry's truck is next.
And every time they turn around, something else in the house breaks. "I think we can turn it into a livable home, but we're totally broke," sighs Szaloki.
Says weary former Marine Larry Butler, "This has been a nightmare. I just want it to end."
Bob Fenwick spent his Labor Day laboring, putting up sheetrock in the "mold house." The house will be ready for the Butlers to move in as soon as it has a working bathroom.
PHOTO BY GEORGE KAMIDE
Since buying a mold-infested house on Wayne Avenue, Larry Butler and Judit Szaloki have seen their family life devastated.
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO