The small cottage behind his Mt. Sinai home has been both a salvation and a prison cell for James Shaljian.
"I've basically been trapped back here," said the father of four, who has been battling cancer for close to nine years.
Shaljian, 45, underwent a bone marrow transplant last October. The potentially life-saving procedure left him with a weakened immune system. Doctors warned the father of four not to return to his two bedroom home because it is filled with mold that could prove deadly.
So, for the last nine months, the former carpenter has lived alone in the cottage, with only limited exposure to his wife Christine and their daughters.
The distance between the cottage and his home is only about eighty feet; but, for the Shaljian family, it might as well be eighty miles.
"I am missing everything, nine months of growing up," Shaljian lamented. "I miss a lot of stuff."
"It's very sad for him because he is the type of father who has been very involved with his kids," said Christine Shaljian.
Their daughters range in age from 12 to 21.
"This family needs to be a family again," said Dorothy Schlosser, a teacher in the Mt. Sinai schools.
Schlosser became friends with substitute teacher Christine Shaljian and was moved by the Shaljian family's difficult living situation.
Schlosser had lost her husband to lung cancer a decade ago and decided to help another family in pain.
She nominated the family for the TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." But when the show's producers chose to help another family, Schlosser refused to give up.
She reached out to a group of local builders and together, they created a non-profit group whose first goal would be to construct a new home for the Shaljians.
The builders already have plans for a five bedroom, three bath colonial to be built where the Shaljians mold-infested home now sits.
But to make the dream reality, the volunteer group needs money- about a quarter million dollars to help cover the cost of the new home.
"They have renewed our hope," said Christine Shaljian.
Building Hope for Long Island hopes to break ground on the home by October and finish it by Christmas. Donations are being accepted through the group's Facebook page.
"I couldn't ask for a better ending to what's happened over the last nine months," concluded James Shaljian, as he sat surrounded by his "girls" in his backyard cottage.