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People reaching out to Pa. mission destroyed by fire

September 23, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Smoke was still rising Friday afternoon from the ashes of the GODS Mission food pantry that was destroyed by fire Wednesday afternoon, taking with it the donated food, household cleaners, personnel hygiene products and other items scores of people have come to depend on.

"I know we're going to rebuild, because that's what I do. That's what I am," said T.J. Cover who, with her husband Art, started GODS Mission almost two decades ago.

The process of raising this phoenix, however, has to wait until the Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal determines the cause of the blaze and an insurance adjuster can come and estimate the losses, Cover said.

In the meantime, the 100 or so people who regularly use the pantry still have needs.

"My families? Yes, I had a lady contact me a while ago," Cover said. "She said, 'I heard what happened ... but I need diapers.'"

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Others have volunteered to help clean up the mess and get the mission back in business, about 75 so far, Cover said. Other contributions have been more tangible.

The truck rental company Art works part-time for has donated a palette jack. Another company has loaned the mission a forklift and someone else has given them the use of a Bobcat loader.

"I had a lady that came by and said she and her husband were going down to Sam's Club to buy us some shelving units," she said.

"It's kind of hard asking for help," Cover said. "But now, I guess I have to."

GODS Mission began with friends asking the Covers where they could go for help during hard times. They suggested some social agencies, but one person missed the annual income eligibility standard by $27.

T.J and Art had raised eight children by that time and the stay-at-home mom needed a new mission. "It got to the point I had too many empty hours," she said.

Cover began filling those hours by going to companies, often day after day, asking politely, but persistently, for donations.

"I had no idea what I was doing, but I went out and did it anyway," she said.

The 120-by-50-foot warehouse was stacked with hundreds of thousands in donated items when the fire started.

Cover said she had been burning trash in a barrel and poured water on it before leaving the house. Half an hour later she got a call that the building was on fire, possible from wind-blown embers from the burn barrel.

Palettes of baby food, sodas, tea and juices were visible among the rubble. Bags of pasta, gallons of Worcester sauce were tumbled about. Less recognizable were the blackened metal frames of walkers, crutches and other medical aides.

Toys, wrapping paper and ribbons for the Christmas toy giveaway went up in smoke, but three palettes of toys stored in a trailer were undamaged, she said.

In the Bible, Job lost everything, but God rewarded his faithfulness, restoring all he lost and more, Cover said. She was thankful that no one was injured, especially the firefighters.

"God will replace it. He always does. He takes good care of us," she said.

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