Community pitches in to help Crystal Lake man avoid eviction

Dolan is trying to avoid eviction after string of medical issues

Bonnie Kassel and Don Dolan developed a friendship after Kassel started a GoFundMe for Dolan to help him with his financial troubles.

Crystal Lake resident Bonnie Kassel said she was at a movie theater when she met an employee there and immediately connected with him.

After chatting, she discovered the employee is struggling with cancer, has other extensive health problems and faces a possible eviction.

That employee is Crystal Lake resident Don Dolan, 65, and Kassel started a GoFundMe donation page to try and help Dolan with the financial troubles he’s been facing.

She said she was inspired to help him because of her strong belief in helping others.

“We’re a community,” Kassel said. “We can’t turn our backs on people, whether we know them or not.”

At last count, the GoFundMe has raised $6,850 since it started in September. Dolan was able to use the GoFundMe money raised so far to help pay for some medical bills and to help him get out of a hole of late rent fees.

“We’re just scraping money between myself and my friends,” she said.

Dolan is struggling with rent, maintenance and medical bills resulting from a car crash in which he was injured three years ago, he said.

Dolan, who is undergoing chemotherapy to treat his cancer, also suffered injuries to his left foot and right kneecap in the past two months, he said.

“It just never seems to end,” Dolan said.

Despite the help Kassel has provided, Dolan is currently trying to avoid eviction by paying off more than $3,000 in late fees to his landlord, he said.

With help from the community and after selling his late father’s coin collection, Dolan was able to pay back some of it but still is short $1,625.

Dolan lives in a rental home in Crystal Lake with his wife and two adult children.

“We are looking for another house, but there isn’t a whole lot on the market right now,” he said.

Finding rentals in the county has become more difficult because of little availability and increasing rent prices, McHenry County Housing Authority Executive Director Kim Ulbrich said.

People who would be in the market to purchase a home are continuing to rent because of costs and interest rates.

“So it’s kind of clogging up the system,” she said.

It also is common for landlords to charge late fees, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, Ulbrich said.

“Right now, it’s kind of a landlord’s market,” she said.

The McHenry County Housing Authority is seeing people struggling from “all angles,” Ulbrich said.

One surprise expense – from a car repair to medical bills – can put renters in McHenry County in difficult situations.

Ulbrich said she has seen some rents going up $200 to $300 in one year.

The increasing prices on everything especially are difficult for people who are older than 65 and those with fixed incomes.

The Housing Authority has a number of programs, including providing vouchers to renters to help cover rent, Ulbrich said. But even the organization’s vouchers cannot help with the limited rental availability in the county.

“Think about that. Somebody who has been on the waiting list for years gets a voucher and then is unsuccessful in finding a place to rent,” she said.

Kassel hopes the community will come together to help a fellow resident, even with small donations that will add up.

“If everybody just does a little bit, then it’s beautiful,” she said. “We’ve all just got to rally for each other.”