Community comes to aid of families displaced by fire

Authored by Jim Langham on Apr 30, 2012

Families who lost their living quarters as a result of last Tuesday's fire that destroyed a building at the Oakwood Terrace Apartment Complex are discovering the support and concern of a county community that is reaching out with assistance during the time of transition as they seek to re-establish their lives.
The Red Cross of Adams County and Compassionate Ministries have both assisted in providing living quarters at the Black Bear Inn, where several of the families continue to be housed on a temporary basis.
"We provide living placement for the families for up to three nights," noted Vickie Ellis, director of the local Red Cross. "If they don't have family or someone to assist them, we will assist with the first month's rent or a deposit if they need a place to go."
Ellis said that the Red Cross also does what it can to assist with clothing, groceries and bedding. If needed, assistance can also be provided for medication. In addition, Ellis said that referrals are being made to Mustard Seed Ministries of Fort Wayne.
"We are putting up some of the families in the Black Bear Inn for the time being," commented Rev. Donald Sauls, head of the Compassionate Ministries program. "We also provide meals for them at the Palmer House Restaurant and assist with items for personal care at the Dollar General store.
"We are collecting clothing and things they might need at the Compassionate Ministries (located beside the Chamber of Commerce on East Main Street). People can bring things in. We are also accepting furniture such as kitchen tables and chairs, but we don't have a means for picking them up."
Sauls noted that the local agency has also established a fund to assist with family needs. Those wishing to give or ask questions concerning care of the families may call Sauls at 260-525-4300.
"Other churches and individuals in the area are making plans to help with this assistance," said Sauls. "I know of one church where they are making blankets for the children and families. It's amazing how this community works to bring things together."
Rev. Joe Nass, pastor of Bethel Brethren Church, where several of the children from the apartments attend Wednesday night children services, was on his way to visit a funeral home in Rockford, Ohio when he heard about the fire. Nass said that he immediately turned around and returned to be there to assist with families.
"Many pastors from the area came to assist with this," said Nass. "It's wonderful how ministers and community residents gather in Christian concern for this.
There were many area pastors on the scene immediately to offer their assistance.
"We are doing all that we can to establish contact with the families to keep up with things," said Nass. "We are especially grateful for the leadership of Don Sauls and the Compassionate Ministries and the Red Cross that have taken such a lead in helping with these families."
Nass said that he has substantial communication with the apartment owner, Keith Hansel, who noted that there were several other apartments under renovation. Naas said that Hansel has advised churches that if there are those who would like to volunteer services in recovering the apartments under renovation in the case that some of those families might want to move in, he would welcome their assistance.
Hansel can be reached at 260-849-9020 to discuss potential assistance.
In addition, Bethel Brethren Church has been used for official meetings with families and assistance agencies in discussing recovery possibilities. Nass indicated that Bethel Brethren Church can also be called (260-589-3381) to discuss ways they can help.
According to Berne Fire Chief John Crider, local firefighters were called to the scene of the blaze at 1:50 p.m. last Tuesday where they found the building fully engulfed in flames. Three departments, including Geneva and Preble fire departments fought the fire for several hours.
"We had at least 40 firemen working to put out the fire," said Crider, who noted that local firemen were on the scene for approximately four hours.
"There is a possibility that the fire could have been caused by a cigarette," said Crider.
Crider said that it appeared that the blaze started in the north upstairs apartment. He noted that the occupant of that apartment told him that he had thrown a cigarette out the window, but that it could have blown back in through a crack in the wall. In addition, those investigating the fire continue to examine the possibility of an electrical origin of the blaze.
Crider said that the investigation would remain open until an exact cause of the fire can be determined.

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