In early December of last year, New Tripoli Fire Company Assistant Chief Zachary Paris and Firefighter Marvin Guber were killed in the line of duty fighting a house fire in Schuylkill County, Pa. Both left behind families.
The tragedy resonated with members of Post 123’s American Legion Family in Lansford, Pa., which is about 20 miles from New Tripoli and counts firefighters among its members.
So, when Post 123 Social Club Manager Ashly McArdle, a member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 316 in nearby Summit Hill, wanted to organize a fundraiser for the families left behind, the post – and the community – were all in. The result: a raffle that raised around $8,000 for the families of Paris and Guber.
“(Members of Post 123) supported me 100 percent. They said to do what I wanted to do with it,” McArdle said. “I had businesses and people contacting me to donate. It was just amazing to see the people who contacted me wanting to help.”
McArdle said her motivation for conducting the fundraiser came from those around her. “I work for veterans, who obviously (sacrificed) their lives for our freedom,” she said. “We’re a very small community here. Everybody seems to always get together when something happens to support one another.
“My father’s a cop. Our post commander is a firefighter. My very close friends are firefighters. They don’t hesitate to help someone. They run into burning buildings to help. Me putting a basket raffle together, I had the resources to do it, so why not do it? It was the least I could do for them.”
Post 123 Commander Nathan Krajcirik, a firefighter with the Allentown Fire Department, said Paris also was a full-time firefighter with the Frederick County (Md.) Division of Fire and Rescue Services. The firefighter community is a tight-knit one, he said.
“We have a good relationship with our volunteer fire company in town,” said the 33-year-old Krajcirik. “A bunch of our (Sons of The American Legion members), including my own father, are active in the volunteer fire company. So, we have a good connection with volunteer fire companies in our community and wanted to do something to help these guys out.
“Our ability to support our community is huge for our (post). Any time something happens in our community, we feel it’s our duty to support our community and help out.”
On Jan. 15 at Post 123, more than 100 gift baskets and five larger items were raffled off. Krajcirik gave McArdle and her staff full credit for the success of the fundraiser. “This was all on our (social club) staff,” he said. “We don’t currently have an Auxiliary unit. We did, and it had fallen by the wayside. We’re trying to get it back. But on the same note, (McArdle and her staff) fill that role, whether or not they have a charter as an Auxiliary unit. They’re still doing the traditional things an Auxiliary unit would do.”
In addition to the post’s Legion Family and the community, support for the fundraiser also came from members of Auxiliary Unit 316 and American Fire Company No. 1.
McArdle said seeing the community step up behind her cause “was kind of amazing. I know people can get busy with their own lives. And it kind of restored my faith in our community. Times are really hard right now, and I know people have it tough. But that didn’t stop people from coming out to help out, to spend money, to donate.”