Published Dec. 25, 2006

Copyright by The Colorado Springs Gazette

Molly MurphySide Streets: Disabled woman can stop worrying about house

By Bill Vogrin

Santa Claus couldn’t bring Molly Murphy’s gift to her house this year. It would never fit under her tree.

That’s because Molly’s Christmas gift is the house — a 50-year-old lavender bungalow with white trim customized to accommodate Molly’s wheelchair and special needs.

It isn’t coming from Santa, anyway. It’s being delivered by Cheyenne Village, a nonprofit agency dedicated to caring for developmentally disabled adults like Molly.

“I’m so happy,” Molly said last week. “It’s such a relief.”

Technically, Cheyenne Village is giving the house to another nonprofit, ARC of the Pike Peak Region.

Teddi Roberts, executive director of the ARC, is legal guardian for Molly, 34, who was born with cerebral palsy and severe disabilities. But the effect is the same — Molly will never have to worry about losing her home or that someone will try to paint it brown.

“The house color will only change if Molly wants it to,” Roberts said.

It was the color of the house that led to the pending change of ownership. The transfer of the deed is expected to be completed this week, ending years of conflict between Molly, her parents John and Mary Murphy, and Cheyenne Village.

“It really is splendid what Cheyenne Village is doing,” Roberts said. “They are giving us this house with no strings attached. “They saw Molly’s distress and they approached us and said they wanted to do the right thing by Molly. They never intended to hurt Molly. It’s delightful and splendid for everyone involved.”

The conflict arose a decade ago, not long after the Murphys bought the house on Magellan Street for $75,000 and then spent $80,000 on such things as a roll-in bathroom and kitchen, a large deck and long ramps to allow Molly to easily come and go.

In 1994, the Murphys realized Molly needed more help in her new home than they could provide. So they approached Cheyenne Village and offered to give the agency the house in exchange for a guarantee that Molly would be taken care of when they were gone.

But there were disagreements between the family and the agency and before long, Molly was getting services from ARC. Cheyenne Village was left simply as Molly’s landlord and the relationship became strained over the years.

The years of tension erupted into a crisis in August after John Murphy had the little house painted Molly’s favorite color — lavender. Actually, she wanted the house to be purple, but her dad convinced her to tone it down a bit. Murphy hired the painter after the house sat for a year, scabby and peeling from neglect.

Cheyenne Village volunteers had scraped the house down to bare wood in the summer of 2005 but never got around to painting it. The day after Murphy’s painter put the finishing touches on the lavender house, Cheyenne Village’s painting crew showed up with buckets of brown to cover up the bright, new coat of paint.

An ugly confrontation ensued and neighbors watched in horror as Molly, in her wheelchair, cried and pleaded to stop the painters from covering her beloved lavender.

They retreated, but Molly has lived in fear ever since that they would return and finish the job. Roberts, her guardian, explains that seemingly trivial things as picking the color of the surroundings are monumental to someone like Molly who has so little control over her life.

“All she ever wanted was a purple home,” John Murphy said.

He and his wife are “overjoyed” at Cheyenne Village’s decision to give the house to ARC.

“This is a wonderful event, especially at this time of year. I applaud all parties involved,” he said. Murphy, 64, said he and his wife can relax now that the house issue has been resolved and take comfort in knowing Molly will be taken care of when they are gone.

“Molly will have certainty and continuity in her life,” Murphy said. “We all want some security in our lives. And when you don’t have mobility or independence, it means even more.”

Although it’s unusual for a nonprofit agency to give away assets, Cheyenne Village executive director Ann Turner said in this case, it was the right thing to do.

“We believe this is the best resolution for everyone concerned,” Turner said. “It was evident we needed to find a solution that met the needs of everybody involved. It’s a nice thing to do and it’s nice it coincides with the holidays.” Murphy said his daughter is thrilled, and the news has brought a noticeable change in her moods.

“She’s not as anxious,” he said. “Many people have noticed her depression has lifted.”

Molly says the gift from Cheyenne Village is the best present she could have gotten and she is grateful.

“I cried when I found out — a happy cry,” Molly said. “It means it will always stay lavender. I love my house. I love my parents and Teddi Roberts. And tell Cheyenne Village I’ll always be their friend.”