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A couple lost their home in a fire. Now, they’re thanking the firefighters who helped them.

Deb Bell hugs Port Matilda Fire Company member Gail Witherite during a thank you party for firefighters Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, at the Port Matilda Fire Company.
Deb Bell hugs Port Matilda Fire Company member Gail Witherite during a thank you party for firefighters Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, at the Port Matilda Fire Company. psheehan@centredaily.com

In January 2017, Chuck and Deb Bell lost everything in a fire that left nothing but rubble where their home used to be.

“Thirty-five years of stuff: gone. Everything went. We had nothing,” Deb Bell said.

But they didn’t let it break them.

“When it dissolved like that, it’s almost like, ‘here’s a fresh start, see what you can do with it,’ ” she said.

They bought a repossessed mobile home, fixed it up and moved in about four months after the fire. The community rallied around the couple, which Deb Bell said was hard to accept.

“I’m an excellent giver. But I’m a hell of a goofy (receiver),” she said.

Through their group Beyond Angels, the Bells, simply put, do good deeds. With their own time and money, they put together baskets for fundraisers, give children gifts at Christmas who wouldn’t have any otherwise and donate fuel.

And when they needed help, the community and the firefighters were there. So Deb and Chuck Bell wanted to say thank you. On Saturday, they did.

Beyond Angels threw a party at the Port Matilda Fire Company for the firefighters and first responders who came to their aid. Port Matilda, Bald Eagle, Alpha, Blazing Arrow Hook and Ladder, Neptune and Warriors Mark fire companies, along with Port Matilda EMS, responded to the fire.

“I want to do something for them. I want them to feel important,” Deb Bell said.

They made baskets to raffle off, had two cakes, gave out flowers and hugs, and even made “fire rescue kits” for each of the companies. The fire companies will be able to give them out to others who lose everything.

The kits were filled with pens, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, tape, post-its, notebooks, mini tissue packs, hand wipes and more.

“Everything in this rescue kit is what we needed,” Deb Bell said.

Port Matilda Fire Company Chief Butch Rudy said he can’t remember anyone ever throwing a thank you party for the firefighters in his 28 years as a volunteer.

“It’s great,” he said. “It’s (support) back from the people that were devastated.”

These guys do their best with everything they do, Chuck Bell said. And they don’t get paid for it.

“We just want to show some kind of an appreciation (for) how much they helped us out, how much they do help our community out,” he said.

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