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Community helps bear family’s burden

Sun., June 7, 2009

Great-grandparents, four kids receive money, services

When people in Spokane and North Idaho read about a Coeur d’Alene couple who are raising their four Canadian great-grandchildren and struggling to make ends meet, the response was as it frequently is in this region: fast and generous.

The stories appeared May 17 and 18, a Sunday and Monday. By Tuesday, $3,000 in donations had flowed into a fund set up for the family at Wells Fargo bank. Today, it tops $10,000.

All four children – ages 5 to 9 – are now in much-needed counseling, free of charge, following a donation by a Coeur d’Alene mental health clinic. The Godin children were taken from their mother three years ago in Cranbrook, B.C., following charges of neglect and abandonment. They spent two years in foster care before their great-grandparents, Chuck and Shirley Young, won custody of them last spring.

The money provided immediate relief for the Youngs, who are struggling with medical bills. Chuck Young is fighting lung cancer and has racked up thousands in doctor bills. Their oldest great-granddaughter, Keira Godin, had headaches and a fever a year ago. The emergency room bill totaled $4,000 and had gone into collections, endangering the Youngs’ credit. Community donations enabled them to pay off that bill immediately, in addition to scheduling a dental appointment for the 9-year-old, whose adult teeth are coming in alongside her baby teeth.

“The load is so much less for me knowing that money is there now,” Shirley Young said. “I don’t feel so alone now. I pray for each one of them that put something in there.”

The Youngs said the money will provide an emergency medical fund for the children, who have not been eligible for public aid programs from either the United States or Canada because they are caught between the two countries, living in one but citizens of another.

Though a federal law signed by President Barack Obama in February gives states the right to offer Medicaid to resident alien children, the state of Idaho has said it has no money to expand services. On Tuesday, the Youngs will appeal the denial of Medicaid coverage for the children.

Almost as important as the donations, the Youngs said, was how embraced they felt by the community. A Spokane Valley optometrist offered free services after reading that 6-year-old Brayden needed glasses. The Coeur d’Alene Papa Murphy’s offered as much free pizza as the kids can eat. And a Spokane Valley couple who farm 10 acres near Mount Spokane offered the family meat from a grain-fed hog after they butcher it.

“When (the story) mentioned that they have pizza every Friday night, we said, ‘Gee whiz, we can do that.’ Pizza, we know. We were feeling like what God gives us is what we have to share,” said Susan Staples, who owns the Coeur d’Alene Papa Murphy’s with her husband, Donn.

Chuck Young, 71, said that when he was a sheriff’s deputy, he used to feel that God was sitting in the passenger seat of his patrol car, keeping him safe. That’s similar to how he feels now, he said. “It’s a humble and grateful feeling at the same time. I feel like I got God on my side again. You know you’re being blessed.”

Dianne and Warren Castor, the Valley farmers who donated the hog, also invited the Young and Godin clan to visit them so the children could have a day at the farm. They’ll see chickens and lambs and ride miniature ponies. Dianne Castor said her husband is also a retired police officer with health problems and that they regularly assist with care of their own grandchildren.

“Everybody’s had tough times, and you just hope somebody would do the same for you,” said Dianne Castor, who is in her 50s.

Shirley Young said she and Chuck will seek ways to give back to the community that has embraced them.

“These kids have touched these people’s hearts,” she said. “We want to thank everybody for the outpouring.”

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