BROOKVILLE — At least 125 people died in Joplin, Mo., when a mile-long tornado struck last Sunday, leaving in its path complete devastation.
But amid tragedy, there is hope.
In conjunction with Clarion County Career Center and Charlie Schrecengost Trucking (CST), the Jefferson County Firemen’s Association will gather goods to send to tornado victims.
“Every fire department has to do their own fund-raising, so we are always trying to collect stuff for our own departments,” said Tyler Bullers, Jefferson County Fireman’s Association secretary. “But it’s a nice change to go out and collect things for someone else.”
All fire departments in Jefferson County will be open for people to drop off non-perishable goods — including clothing, food, cleaning materials and toys — from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday.
“I think that the people in this area are willing to help anyone, but I think sometimes, they don’t have the access to help,” Bullers said. “I think this is going to have a good turnout, because all of the fire departments will be open.”
At the association’s bi-monthly meeting Tuesday, members decided to form a committee to see how they could provide aid to the victims. After contacting a few area agencies, Bullers realized that it might be difficult to transport the goods to Joplin.
However, it seemed that good fortune struck.
As he was traveling down Allegheny Boulevard in Brookville, he ran straight into a collection site for tornado victims. He saw a CST truck and trailer parked outside the Family Dollar and the Hurricane Truck Wash.
“The owner of Hurricane Truck Wash asked me to park the truck outside on the lawn so it would draw attention and that people would know something is going on,” Schrecengost said.
Bullers asked Schrecengost if he could team up with him, and with Donny Doverspike of the Clarion County Career Center, with whom it all started.
“Bryan Martin, who is from Joplin, Mo., and who owns Chrome Shop Mafia, has always been generous to the [Clarion County Career Center], and to our local community,” Doverspike said. “And when I saw that his community was hurting badly, I thought that we should help them.”
Doverspike started a collection through the school, but when he asked to borrow a trailer from Schrecengost, the project exploded into something bigger than he ever imagined.
Schrecengost agreed to not only let Doverspike borrow a trailer, but decided to set one up in Brookville.
“I think that everyone needs to be involved in helping people,” Schrecengost said. “This feels like it’s the proper thing to do.”
In addition to the Brookville collection site — which is accepting collections until noon Thursday — there will be a trailer located at the Washington Township Fire Company in Fryburg today and Sunday, as well as one in New Bethlehem, across from Redbank Valley High School until 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The collection from the Jefferson County Firemen’s Association will be combined with these sites, and Doverspike and Schrecengost will head for Joplin at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Once they arrive in Joplin, they will connect with some of the area churches to distribute the goods.
Schrecengost said that there is a strong chance that they may collect more than two trailers. If so, they will have to make a second trip to Joplin.
“They need everything that you can think of — cleaning materials, toiletries, even as much as a toothbrush, or even bicycles,” he said.
But according to both Schrecengost and Doverspike, the support has been overwhelming; the phones have been ringing off the hook, with people asking what they can donate.
“I’m very proud of the community support we’ve had so far,” Doverspike said. “I never thought it would get as big as it’s getting. My hat’s off to the community for everything they’ve done.”