From noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, the AMS cafeteria will become center stage for a community coming together to help a family in need. The Austintown School District Transportation Department will play host for a fundraiser to help the Haefke family and a young father who is battling pulmonary fibrosis.
Jeff Haefke, 43, has been a machinist since 1988 and has been a self-employed business owner for many years. He had more recently been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis caused by a severe allergy from Cobalt dust particles emitted from materials he had worked with. The disease causes scar tissue within the lungs making breathing and all daily living activities very difficult. The only way to deal with it is to have a lung transplant.
Haefke and his wife Lorraine are both 1987 graduates of Austintown Fitch High School and were married in 1990. They have two sons, Jeffrey 17, who attends MCCTC and Matthew 12, who attends Austintown Middle School. Lorraine works as a bus driver for Austintown Local Schools.
Jeff has to be on oxygen all the time and has not been able to work since September 2011. That has put a tremendous financial burden on the family. According to Transportation Director Colleen Murphy, the family has had hard times making the monthly mortgage payments on their Austintown home.
"When the other bus drivers found out, they came to me and said, 'We have to do something, boss'," Murphy said.
That is when the idea came up to hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to help out the Haefke family. In a short time, it all came together. Murphy said the whole community jumped on board. MCCTC donated the pasta, sauce, and salad for the event. The Tamarkin Company is providing the meatballs. Even former school board member Lou Chine is donating his time to do the cooking.
On top of the dinner, the word went out about a Chinese Auction and the baskets started coming in.
"We have at least 75 baskets at this point," Murphy said. "The list of donations goes on and on as the entire community is getting behind this fundraiser."
While the family is still not out of the financial woods, there was some good news on Monday. It was Jeff's birthday and he received the news that he made the transplant list. That gets him a step closer at living a long life.
"That was a great unexpected birthday gift," Murphy said.
One thing she is proud of, is the support that has come from all over to help Jeff and his family get through this tough time. She said she would love to list every contributor to the fundraiser, but the list is growing longer every day.
Murphy said for those who can't make the dinner and raffle, but still want to help out, donations can be made at Huntington Bank, 1732 S. Raccoon Road, Austintown, Ohio 44515 or any Huntington Bank Branch. The donation should be marked in care of: The Haefke Family Benefit. For information on the event, call 330-406-5765.