One Family’s Mission Will Help Many Flood Victims
By Kelly Cole
The Shafer family started out like many in the community, with the desire to help those who had become victims of the previous week’s flood. They did not expect their efforts to grow as fast and generate as much buzz as it did.
Steve and Billie Jo Shafer had the help of their seven children, Billie Jo’s mother, Orlene Shoemaker and her sister Orlene Carey as they went through closets, bedrooms and storage pulling everything from clothing to the kitchen table to give away. They had spent their lives in the area and wanted to contribute as much as they could. Steve works for Procter & Gamble and Billie Jo stays home to care for the children.
The Shafers were going to donate the items to a local church that would be able to hand them out to those in need. Unfortunately, Meshoppen took a big hit during the flood and the church they were intending to go through had been flooded.
They decided to just set it up at their home and get word out to as many people as possible that they could provide for anyone who lost their belongings in the flood and it was free. The word traveled fast and when news hit Facebook and emails from the Rocket Bulletin were received, the Shafers started receiving calls. People wanted to bring items over to donate and add to what the Shafers had.
Their children were in and out the weekend of Sept. 17 and 18 to help organize the donations. Dominick Brooks, 10th grade at Elk Lake, Marissa Snell, 8th grade at Montrose, Dakota Shafer, 10th grade at Elk Lake, Zoe Shafer, 7th grade in Binghamton, Caleb Shafer, 6th grade in Binghamton, Madison Shafer, Kindergarten in Elk Lake and Logan Shafer, 3 years old, helped their parents in some manner by giving away their own things to setting it up in their yard.
Flynn’s Consignment Shop, located in Lawton, jumped on board to donate a large percentage of what they had in their store. Flynn’s usually donates a large amount of goods to the Tioga County Open Door Mission in Owego, NY. This mission has been operating for over 40 years and provides a men’s residence, outreach program and thrift store. Unfortunately, the Open Door Mission was hit hard during the flood and was unable to take donated items from Flynn’s.
Billie Jo’s brother, Jamey Shoemaker, contacted Carl Kelly who is the Director of Operations at International Portfolio Incorporated of New York and a 501©3 non-profit organization. Right after the earthquake in January 2010 that hit Haiti, Kelly began collecting supplies and medicines for six months in his Broad Street, Waverly building. It filled a huge shipping container, and he was planning to donate it along with the 30-foot six-wheeler flatbed truck to the Fraternite Notre Dame Missionaries and nuns at their orphanage and St. Matthew’s Church in Haiti.
Rotary International was going to drive the truck to Miami, FL, load it on a ship and then receive and clear it in the port in Haiti. Unfortunately, the Rotary came across issues getting the truck loaded and sent off to Haiti. It has spent the time since in one of Kelly’s storage sheds in hopes of it getting through. As it worked out, it never left and when Shoemaker made a call, Kelly was able to step in and find a local need for all those donations.
Kelly’s truck holds everything from clothes, toys, houseware items, furniture, oxygen and medical supplies, breathing machines, walkers, canes, walkers for adults and children, wheelchairs, crutches and so much more. Kelly has even offered the body of the truck as a donation if someone needs it. It was intended to be removed from the flatbed truck and turned into an outpatient clinic and operating center in Haiti.
Kelly was upset that the items he had collected from 26 individual and business donors weren’t being used as he intended over the years. To be able to have an opportunity to lend a hand and help his community was a second chance for him.
When the Shafers heard of this gracious donation, they were blown away by Kelly’s generosity. Here was a man that had started a crusade by himself much like they had started this mission by themselves.
What had started as a small gesture of kindness to those in the community has now grown to huge proportions. The Shafers plan to accept and distribute donations as long as people have a need and there are people out there who are willing to donate.
Readers may call Billie Jo at 570-833-2748 or 570-396-3019 with any questions about dropping off items to donate or to arrange for a pick up at individual homes. The Shafers are located at 5278 State Route 267, approximately 7.5 miles out of Meshoppen, and donors may stop by between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day.