Arnold family to get home through Habitat for Humanity
Carrying her 8-year-old son, Seth, over her shoulder, Nichole Fiedor walks outside of her two-story, rented home in Arnold to reach the back door entrance to the bathroom in the basement.
“You can't push a wheelchair through the snow,” said Nichole Fiedor, 35, a mother of two and an Air Force veteran.
Seth is a quadriplegic. He has cerebral palsy, has chronic lung disease, asthma, and is deaf, although he can hear with cochlear implants.
She can't readily carry him to the second-floor bathroom: During random seizures, Seth will involuntarily hit his head against the stairwell ceiling.
Most times, it's easier for Fiedor to carry Seth outside, around the house and in through a side door to the basement bathroom, since there isn't one on the first floor.
But not for long: Fiedor and her family are set to move into a rehabbed Habitat for Humanity house six blocks away.
Fiedor and her two children hope to move into the single-floor, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home by June.
It's specially designed to be accessible to Seth now and when he grows older.
“It's a complete blessing,” Fiedor said. “I couldn't have prayed for more.”
She will pay a modest, 25-year, interest-free mortgage to own the house.
Complications of living
Among the canyons of stacked medical supplies, oxygen tanks, books and toys is Seth, who is solidly handsome in flexible, powder blue sunglasses, red sweat pants and smiles for his mother.
The family comes together week days when Fiedor finishes work as a secretary at Trinity United Christian Church in Lower Burrell, and oldest son, Brandon, 12, is home from Valley Middle School in New Kensington.
Then Seth comes home from school at The Day School at the Children's Institute in Pittsburgh.
When the mild rumble of the school van is audible just outside the front door, followed by Seth being wheeled into the house, his guide dogs start to whine, sensing his homecoming.
“If he doesn't see me, he'll cry,” said Fiedor, who places herself right beside Seth after she helps him out of the wheelchair and into a recliner in the living room.
The fact that Seth is in a wheelchair or a living room recliner or his hospital bed in the dining room doesn't seem to interfere with the love and bond between mother and son or between brothers.
It's time for smiles, reassurance and water — lemon water when he can have it.
Nicole has to provide water through a gastrostomy tube because the boy can't swallow.
A new home
Resources to help Fiedor have not come easy.
The Penn State graduate gave up her preschool teacher job about four years ago to devote more time to taking care of Seth.
Fiedor said that she lost the home that she and her estranged husband owned on Garvers Ferry Road last year, three years after she and her husband separated.
“I couldn't afford it so I moved here. I needed someplace safe and affordable,” she said. “It's a beautiful duplex, (but) a little cramped with all of Seth's equipment.”
Then a chain of unlikely events produced a house for the Fiedors, only blocks away.
After an Arnold nonprofit dissolved several years ago, they transferred one of their assets to the HOPE Center in Tarentum. It had planned to open a community education center and provide outreach services at the house.
But the HOPE Center lost some federal funding and they put the house up for sale. It sat, unsold, for two years.
Michelle Bond, executive director of the HOPE Center had heard about Fiedor's plight during a breakfast meeting with Karen Snair, of the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, and Diane Belitskus, executive director of the Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley.
“I kept having in my mind that this woman was a veteran and she served our country for my freedoms,” Bond said. “and her freedom was so limited by her situation.”
So Bond mentioned that the house and Belitskus offered Habitat's services to renovate and make the house handicapped accessible.
Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley, raised money at the Pittsburgh Mills mall and its secondhand hardware store, ReStore, in New Kensington.
Now, they have encountered mold in the Arnold home, and according to Belitskus, a New Kensington company, Fire Pro/Mold Men in New Kensington, is donating its services.
The rehabilitation project is in progress, with between $40,000 and $50,000 still to raise to finish the job.
Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or firstname.lastname@example.org.