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Dale’s new house is almost ready

With a little more money from the community, Dale Sylvester, center, will own the new home under construction in the background and have a place to live permanently. His mother, Betty Isaacson (left) has been making it happen along with, from the left, Katharine Gray of the Island County Housing Authority, and caregivers from Eagle’s Flight, Danny Burley and Kaci Parker.  - Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times
With a little more money from the community, Dale Sylvester, center, will own the new home under construction in the background and have a place to live permanently. His mother, Betty Isaacson (left) has been making it happen along with, from the left, Katharine Gray of the Island County Housing Authority, and caregivers from Eagle’s Flight, Danny Burley and Kaci Parker.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times

It takes a village to raise a child, and in some cases it takes a village to see that the grown child is cared for properly for the rest of his life.

Such is the case with Dale Sylvester, 36, who is well known in Oak Harbor for his 18 years as a Whidbey News-Times paper carrier and his 16 years working two hours a day at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station gymnasium.

Sylvester was taken in as a foster child by Betty and Gerald Isaacson when he was a baby and they’ve been responsible for him ever since.

He must deal with numerous severe challenges caused by “shaken baby syndrome” at the hands of his natural father, who has long since left the area. Caregivers have almost always been by his side 24 hours a day to help Sylvester with his jobs and personal needs, and the Isaacsons have been devoted parents despite the difficulties.

“We’ve had him since he was 6 months old and we never dreamed of all this when we said ‘yes’ to that baby,” Betty Isaacson, 70, said. Having overseen his care for 36 years, along with hosting 13 other foster kids and raising her own three children, she’s now focused on making sure his care will continue after she’s gone.

Eventually, the aging Isaacsons will have to move out of their large house that includes an apartment for Sylvester, or they will pass away, so Betty is devoted to getting Sylvester a home of his own. And she’s almost reached her goal.

In a new housing development called Frostad Pond, Dale Sylvester’s house is under construction thanks to a number of state, county and nonprofit programs, spearheaded by Saratoga Community Housing.

The problem is that the Isaacsons have put all they can afford into the project and federal funding they had counted on delivered less money than anticipated.

Sylvester can make the monthly payments thanks to government support, but he still needs about $10,000 for final costs and special features to accommodate his disabilities that include cerebral palsy, epilepsy and serious visual impairment. He’s confined to a wheelchair and caregivers drive him to work and to the beach, where he enjoys watching children play.

“He needs serious care,” Isaacson said. “And if there’s no money there’s no house.”

Sandra Stipe, executive director of Saratoga Housing, is committed to doing whatever it takes to put Sylvester into his own home, but is asking the public for help.

“We still need $10,000,” she said, citing the unanticipated shortage in government funds. “We didn’t know until the end of April. But this is Dale’s house.”

People who want to help can send a donation to: Saratoga Community Housing, Dale’s Fund, P.O. Box 1002, Freeland, WA 98249.

“We’re going to make this work,” Stipe said. “We’ve maxed out on what we have, but if the community can rally behind Dale it would be fantastic.”

Betty Isaacson’s dream is to see Sylvester in his own home, where he will never have to worry about being moved even after she’s gone.

“Then I’ll know our job is done except for just loving him,” she said.

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