Olivebridge couple gets community assistance to move back home

The White family.

The White family.

US Army Veteran and his disabled daughter are homeless due to toxic black mold. The mold is gone. The rebuild is slow to progress due to lack of funds. All their furniture was lost. Please donate something. No amount is too small. If you can’t donate, please share with others so that we can get them back into their house.

The Facebook message from the Bryanna White Fund is succinct and direct, but it doesn’t tell the story of guardian angels Bill and Melinda McKnight. The Woodstock couple have been working for over a year to help Alvah, Lori, and Bryanna White rebuild their house after cleaning out the mold that has been identified as a cause of some of the family’s health problems.

Bill’s company, Energy Conservation Specialists in West Hurley, does free home energy audits through NYSERDA. When he examined the Whites’ home in Olivebridge, he discovered black mold on the walls of the master bedroom. He took a swab for testing, and suggested that the family sleep in the living room. Later it was discovered that the mold had spread through the wall cavities. Test results showed that the mold was one of several species said to cause respiratory and other health problems.


Lori, who works as a home health aide, was in the hospital for an asthmatic condition, while 10-year-old Bryanna was having up to ten seizures a day. Bryanna has Rett Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that has slowed her development and rendered her non-verbal. Alvah has had several small strokes. A former school bus driver, he used to drive the McKnight children to school, so Bill and Melinda already knew him.

“Al is a real sweet guy who would give you the shirt off his back,” said Bill.

“I don’t know how to get help or how to reach for it, and they’re been exhausting every avenue possible — it’s been difficult to get help,” said Alvah. “I tell my wife, they’ve adopted us. They didn’t have to do this. He felt so bad for our little girl, he took this on to help us.”

The McKnights approached numerous agencies and organizations for grants to rip out the moldy structures and rebuild the interior, but they received a limited response. Catholic Charities helped them find grants, and Ulster-Greene ARC gave some assistance, while local churches banded together to pay for a room at the Super 8 motel in Kingston, where the family have been living since the spring.

Since moving to the motel, said Alvah, his daughter’s seizures have declined to one or two per day.


Work and material donations

Lori’s two sons, along with members of the Bruderhof, donated their time to demolish the moldy walls. A mold mitigation company sprayed down interior walls and roof, thanks to a grant from Home Depot and assistance from the Daniel Center, a veterans outreach and counseling organization in Highland. When the rebuilding began, congregants from the Living Word Chapel in West Shokan donated all the sheetrock required. Kingston Block gave them concrete and blocks.

In addition to seeking grants, Bill has been helping with the renovation. “I am not generally this involved in my clients’ lives,” he commented. “I’ve donated a lot of time to this particular cause because no one could help them. When Al told me Bank of America said they must continue the mortgage payments, even though they can’t even live in the house, or the bank would foreclose, I said they should just let ‘em have the house. But Lori’s father built the house, so they have a sentimental attachment.”

At this point, funds are needed for insulation, parts to complete the repairs to the electrical system, and new lighting and furniture. Melinda has set up a website to gather donations from the community, in the hope of getting the family back into their home before the winter.

“It’s been difficult and stressful,” said Alvah, “but to know that we’re going to get back home is a good feeling. I always look forward to tomorrow. I try to be positive and keep that attitude.”

To make a donation to the Bryanna White Fund, see https://www.giveforward.com.