Proud “Nominate a Goodie” Partner
July 12 was almost a normal day for Erin Ellis.
Ellis and her teenage son were helping a friend pack to move out of state when she got a call text asking if the fire was near her apartment. Not only was Ellis near, but her home was one of three units involved.
“Once I got to the house and saw flames in my apartment, I didn’t know what to do,” Ellis said. “I just paced back and forth and tried to hold it together.”
A firefighter showed Ellis the relief station set up by the American Red Cross. While there, she used her cell phone to text a few friends.
“All I could say was, ‘My apartment is on fire and I am trying real hard to keep it together right now,’” she said.
One text to Samantha Demchak, her friend in the Salem Chamber of Commerce, mobilized friends in the business community to help Ellis and the other families affected by the fire.
“This community is amazing,” Demchak said. “I figured my gift is facilitating other people’s wonderfulness. I didn’t have money to give, but I wanted to help.”
Fire or no fire, football practice for Ellis’s son was going to happen. His cleats were in the apartment, but Angelo Seminary of DePaul Industries brought him a new pair the next morning so that he didn’t have to miss practice.
“People were dropping off clothes, a laptop … it was amazing,” Ellis said. “People were giving with whatever resources they had available.
“Brad Brunhaver of Brad Technologies just dropped of a laptop,” she added. “Of course, Brad would bring over a laptop because he is the computer guy. People gave where they were gifted. It was really beautiful and so appreciated.”
Larry Jackson of Jackson’s Auto Body drove countless hours picking up donations, filling a warehouse with donations from which the four families picked what they could use. The rest was sold at a garage sale and proceeds were donated to the fire victims.
“I haven’t run across someone who didn’t help in some way,” said Ellis. “What has meant the most to me in my world is that every thought, every prayer, every item donated, every single thing someone did had value to me.”
Chamber members and others came together as a community.
“Friends took clothes out of their closet for me,” Ellis said. “It’s challenging to get dressed in the morning because I don’t have a frame of reference for what’s in the closet. Nothing is familiar. New pillow, new shoes … it really changes your perspective to lose your belongings. You lose part of yourself.”
Ellis lost “things,” but a few heirlooms were salvaged.
“My number one initial concern was my grandmother’s pearl and diamond ring,” she said. “It was there among ashes. My great-grandmother’s chest did not make it, but the belongings inside were OK. Everything inside smelled like cedar and no smoke damage. My mom’s mashed potato bowl survived the fire. There have been lots of silver linings – absolutely there have been!”
Ellis said she has always known that people are amazing.
“They are loving, giving,” she said, but of the Salem and Keizer chambers of commerce members, she added, “They are family!”
Salem Chamber of Commerce and Keizer Chamber of Commerce members did GOOD today!