BY VIRGINIA CODY
The Steve and Billie Jo Shafer family ofAuburnTownshipcount themselves among the very fortunate nowadays.
“We’re just 10 minutes away from people losing everything,” Steve Shafer said. “And we had nothing here.”
And with that in mind, Shafer said he and his family, including his in-laws, tried to figure out how to help.
The answer, he said, was to comb through their own homes and set aside things they didn’t need that could be donated directly to flood victims.
“It started as just us, it was just a small thing,” he said.
The idea, though, took hold. And now the Shafers have an immense list of others who’ve joined them in their quest to make life a little easier for those who’ve walked away from flooded homes with just the shirts on their backs.
Now their yard on State Route 267 just a short way beyond the Jersey Hill church resembles an outdoor clothing store with tables upon tables stacked high with good serviceable clothing in just about every size.
Their deck is home to housewares.
Their driveway contains walkers and crutches and a variety of medical supplies.
Children’s toys are in baskets low to the ground so kids can get to them easily.
“And it’s all free,” Shafer said, adding that the reason his family is making its donations this way is that he discovered some of the larger aid organizations are charging victims for these kinds of items.
“That’s not right,” he said. “Insurance isn’t covering people for anything they lost.”
Shafer said that he and his wife, along with their seven children and his wife’s sister Orlene Carey, got started on the venture intending to keep their used goods shop open for just one day. That was Sept. 17.
But, he said, his wife was at Flynns inLawtonbuying several tubes of toothpaste. When the proprietor asked her why she was buying so much, Billie Jo explained she was donating it to people who’d lost their household possessions in the flooding.
The next thing she knew, Flynns offered to donate a multitude of items they would normally have donated to an Owego, N.Y., facility, but that facility had also been flooded.
And the donations continued to pour in.
“Tractor Supply even donated tarps so we don’t have to take everything inside every night,” Shafer said.
“I love helping people,” Carey said as she helped a young couple try to find some warmer clothing than the shorts and t-shirts they were wearing.
Carey herself lost everything when her Laceyville apartment was flooded and is now staying with the Shafers.
The Shafers said their donation center is going to remain open indefinitely.
“And it’s open to everybody, not just people in Meshoppen.”
Shafer said that so far there have been at least six families who’ve found them and who’ve been able to take away items that help them start over.
“What’s really interesting is how honest people are,” he said, explaining that one of his visitors refused to take anything from him because she was there just to help friends of hers who’d been flooded out.
The Shafers said they are still taking donations from the public and are particularly interested in getting some more childrens’ toys and men’s clothing.
“It’s been a lot of work,” Billie Jo Shaffer admitted as she moved some clothing from one table to another. “But it’s what we can do.”
“We are so grateful,” her husband said. “We feel so blessed.”