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PTA, schools come together to help family

November 2, 2011
By J.T. Whitehouse
Life has changed for one Austintown family following a devastating house fire that left them with very little. Now, the Austintown schools and PTA have joined to help the family on their road back to their home.

Fire consumed the Ayers' family home during the afternoon hours of Oct. 6. The family had taken off for one last outing together at Lake Milton. They were preparing to go on the lake to do a little fishing when they got the call that their home was burning.

The fire call came in at 2:17 p.m. and when fire trucks reached 84 Idlewood Road, the front of the home was engulfed in flames. One of the family dogs was inside and managed to escape when firefighters got the door open. Thankfully, the other family dog was with the family that day.

“When we arrived home, the street was covered with fire trucks,” said mom Keisha Dance.

Along with the father John Ayers and the couple’s sons Tyler and Shane, all she could do was stand at the scene in amazement.

“You never think it would happen to you,” she said. “It is like waking up from a dream and there it is.”

The family lost everything. What the fire didn’t destroy, the smoke and water damage did. It basically left the family with just the clothes on their back and their two dogs.

A short time after the fire, the couple found a rental home on Youngstown’s West Side. It became their temporary home while repairs are made to their Austintown home.

It didn’t take long for the school PTA groups to learn about the family’s situation.

“I found out about it from the Frank Ohl Facebook page,” said Watson PTA President Jody West. “I got our PTA involved because we have one of the Ayres children in Watson.”

West immediately put out a posting of what the family needed. Some help came through, but the family still needs a few more items, including gas cards.

When the family moved to the West Side, Dance said she had looked into enrolling the kids at McGuffy School, but was advised to keep them in their own schools so as not to interrupt their studies. She did so, but now has additional hardships.

“She literally spends an hour driving her kids to school and picking them up,” said West.

She has to drive 40 miles every school day and because of different start times between Frank Ohl and Watson, she has to wait it out. The added expense of fuel for such a daily drive is taxing any funds the family has, making gas cards an important priority.

When asked what else the family is lacking, Keisha said she desperately needs pots and pans for cooking right now. She said they have some donated furniture and her sons have a few toys, but could use some more clothing, including winter clothes.

As for the future, it looks like the family will be spending Christmas in their temporary West Side home. Work on the Idlewood home started two weeks ago, but the builders are saying the rebuilt home won’t be ready to move into until February or March.

“It is going to be a rough transition to go back,” Keisha said. “It will be in the heart of winter.”

In the meantime, the family keeps living day to day while being appreciative for the PTA.

“It really is amazing how people come to help after a fire,” she said. “We are so thankful. It’s more than words can explain.”

Fact Box

The Frank Ohl and Watson PTAs have both come together and posted a list of items the family still needs. The list is on the schools' website as well as Facebook. Items requested include the following:
• Boys sizes shirts 10/12
• Boys pants 10 and/or 12,
• Boys shoes size 5 or Men’s size 6
• Mens shirts XL,
• Mens pants 34-33
• Mens shoes 10.5.
• Winter clothes welcome
• kitchen tools
• small appliances (mixer, blender, etc.)
• furniture (please call to make arrangements for large items)
• toys (Tonka trucks, Matchbox cars, card games, board games, etc.)
• gas cards
Donations can also be dropped in the main office at Frank Ohl.



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