HAMILTON, Ohio -- Kathy Wagonfield, principal at Ridgeway Elementary School, is used to stepping up for her students. When fifth grade student Paris Bishop needed a ride home after a doctor’s appointment, she drove the girl back to her home on Harrison Avenue -- and quickly realized that the Bishop family needed more than a ride.
As Wagonfield stepped inside the house, she realized that it was cluttered and filthy. Paris herself had written a message on the staircase: We need help.
Wagonfield thought she was prepared to provide it.
“We got a big group of people together one Saturday and came in (the house) and soon realized it was way, way beyond us,” Wagonfield said.
So she enlisted the help of Heidi Lamkin, who works for a local branch of cleanup company Steri-Clean. Lamkin and her colleagues nationwide work to turn unlivable houses, especially those affected by hoarding, back into homes.
Lamkin had already hoped to help a family during the holiday season, she said, and the Bishops were perfect candidates. Lushaunda Bisop, Paris’s mother, has chronic multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease that can affect nearly all of the brain and body’s most important functions.
She was overwhelmed by the mess that had built up while she struggled to function, and Lamkin said this is not unusual among Steri-Clean clients.
“I have learned that most of the people who we’ve helped are some of the greatest people, are some of the smartest people,” Lamkin said. “They’re not lazy. It’s because they’ve had some kind of trauma that leads to depression, and the layers just keep building, the clutter builds, and they get paralyzed.”
Lushaunda Bishop said she was grateful for Wagonfield’s help.
“She said, ‘I’m going to be there, and I’m not going to take no for an answer,’” Bishop said. “And she’s been there for us ever since."
The work was still in progress Friday, but Paris Bishop and her four-year-old brother, Qadir, will have a clean, safe home for the holidays. When asked what she had learned from the experience, Paris replied:
"There’s always miracles around."