Miles Township Fire Company collects donations for families affected by Mifflin County blaze

bmilazzo@centredaily.comApril 8, 2014 

— Brian and Lanette Johnson, of Zion, opened their garage and let Miles Township Fire Company officials and volunteers have at the stuff that piled up for more than eight years.

The garage full of items that remained after a series of yard sales, came in handy when Ashley McClenahan, a member of the Miles Township Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary, spearheaded a donation drive for those who lost their homes in a March 27 fire in Juniata Terrace, Mifflin County.

“It was kind of spur-of-the-moment,” Ashley McClenahan said of the drive. “I saw how dramatic the fire was and saw the response of people on Facebook, and came up with an idea that I knew could work.”

McClenahan once called Lewistown her home but has lived in Rebersburg since 2011, when she married Rob McClenahan, a Miles Township volunteer firefighter.

McClenahan and other ladies auxiliary members approached the fire company and pitched the idea.

“It was a great idea,” said Assistant Chief Eric Miller. “In the fire service, even though we’re not from the same county, we all work as one. There is a strong brotherhood and we come together for each other in times of need.”

Juniata Terrace lost 25 homes and reported $6 million in damage. According to American Red Cross spokeswoman Kathy Smyser, as much as 10 percent of the municipality’s population was displaced, though no serious injuries were reported.

First responders from as far away as Bellefonte, Boalsburg, Centre Hall and State College helped extinguish the Mifflin County blaze.

Miles Township Fire Company wasn’t one of those responding units, but Miller said he was near the fire when it broke out.

“I remember smelling smoke and seeing smoke, and rushed over there, “ Miller said. “There was nothing I could do, but (I) stuck around just in case they needed another hand. Everything was lost.”

Through social media and word-of-mouth, the organizations were able to collect enough donations to fill a fire engine, two pickup trucks and a small moving hatch since April 1.

“Just being in communications with them, everyone is so grateful,” McClenahan said. “I know on their part in Mifflin County, people are holding yard sales and some restaurants are donating proceeds to families. The good deeds don’t seem to end.”

About a half dozen volunteers with the company loaded the items into the vehicles from the Miles Township Fire Company’s garage on Tuesday night. It was later dropped off at Brooklyn Fire Company in Lewistown, where items were to be distributed to those displaced by the fire, Miller said.

Firefighter Dennis Fultz loaded the pickup with boxes of items, while Eloise Wolfe, fire company secretary, fire police and ladies auxiliary member, strategically placed donations in the back of the moving hatch. Some local Amish residents spent part of the afternoon helping get things in order as well.

McClenahan said people from around the county donated items like clothes, bedding, silverware and tableware, nonperishable food, toys and more.

“It was just an outpouring of donations from everyone,” McClenahan said. “That’s the real definition of community.”

McClenahan said the company will continue to take donations. For more information, contact the fire company at 349-8149.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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