Kindness of strangers saves Palmetto family's home

Bay News 9July 17, 2013 

PALMETTO -- Seven years ago, local charities made a physically challenged woman's dreams come true by raising enough money to builder a custom handicap-accessible home.

The dream has been threatened by a mixup in taxes.

Amanda Laffler, 21, was born with spina bifida and has been confined to a wheelchair since she was 3.

For 15 years, Karen Laffler had to lift her daughter in and out of the tub every time she took a bath. Karen Laffler had a stroke in 2010 and no longer has use of the left side of her body.

The home was built to serve the family's needs, including making meals and washing up. Amanda Laffler mostly gets around just fine on her own but taking an evening bath, getting through narrow hallways or scaling step-in entries were difficult in their old home.

The family's Palmetto home was built to overcome those obstacles. Countertops were lowered, vinyl flooring was installed instead of carpets, with wider halls and pocket doors. The bathroom can now accommodate the circular motion of her wheelchair. When Amanda wants to shower, there's no longer a bathtub in her way.

"I can be myself and not just a girl in a chair," Amanda Laffler said.

The Lafflers rely heavily on their home health aide

and the sturdy house donated by developer De Morgan Communities in 2006. But recently, the Lafflers nearly lost the house.

The Lafflers were told they would own their home if they paid all the taxes in seven years. But there the paper trail grows tangled.

"The payments were suppose to be taken out of my bank account," Karen Laffler said. "They never did. We filled out paperwork twice to make it happen."

No payments were made on the house from 2006 to 2009. Without Karen Laffler's knowledge, the home was sold and the Lafflers were told they had to move.

Brad Hodge, a complete stranger to the Lafflers, said he knew he had to do something when he heard their story.

"They just needed the help," Hodge said. "Some people end up in a bad situation through no fault of their own and the only thing you can try to do is fix it."

Hodge started networking with possible donors to help the Lafflers. An anonymous person offered to give $21,000 if Hodge could match it.

He did.

The Lafflers are still $8,000 short of owning their residence but it looks as if they will be able to stay if they can scrape up the rest of the money owed.

"We're very happy that we are going to be here," Karen Laffler told Bay News 9. "No one can take it away from us."

Her neural defect doesn't stop Amanda Laffler from going to school with dreams of becoming a veterinary assistant. She is grateful the threat of losing her home has lessened although it has not disappeared.

"Thank you for everything," Amanda Laffler said.

To learn more about how to help, go to Baynews9.com.

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