Six years ago, Todd and Charity (Iams) Richards lost their Amwell Township home to a fire.
They constructed another home on the historic Iams family farm – where nine generations of the family have lived – on the same spot where their former house burned down.
But calamity struck on Sept. 4, when the two-story house they built was badly damaged by fire.
Family and friends asked what they could do to help, but the Iames weren’t thinking about the loss of their house.
Instead, they were thinking about how the firefighters who responded dropped whatever they were doing and raced to the farm, risking their lives to save their home not once, but twice.
So the Iams family organized a fundraiser, called Fall Fundraising Frenzy, held Saturday at the Barn at Ike’s Place, a wedding and event venue the family owns.
About 350 people attended, and Iams said their goal is to raise $30,000.
“We really appreciate them. Our local firefighters are the ones who leave the dinner table to help you. They respond at any time during the day or night, or holidays,” said Charity Richards. “They don’t get sleep and they go to work the next day. We wanted to show our appreciation for the men and women who help out. We have a hard time being idle, so we decided to put our time to good use and hold a benefit for the fire departments.”
All of the money raised during the dance, which included Chinese and live auctions, will be divided among the fire companies that responded to the September fire: Amwell Township, Lone Pine, Marianna, Morris Township, South Franklin, South Strabane and Waynesburg-Franklin.
Two other departments that responded, the city of Washington and the Washington County Department of Public Safety, asked for their share of the funds to be split among the other fire departments.
Most volunteer fire companies rely heavily on donations that are used to fund new apparatus, gear and equipment purchases – it costs approximately $12,000 to outfit a firefighter with a complete uniform and breathing apparatus, for example – and for training to improve firefighters’ skills.
“We can’t thank (the Iams family) enough,” said Tommy Riggin, captain of the Marianna Volunteer Fire Department, noting that the company relies almost completely on grants and donations. “There aren’t enough words for what they’ve done for local fire departments. In order for us to help the community, the community needs to help us. They took the initiative to help us, and we thank them. They made us feel so appreciated.”
It’s not the first time the Iamses have supported the efforts of local fire departments.
The Iams family holds an annual clay pigeon shoot, and this year, the event benefited the Amwell and Lone Pine fire departments, who each received $6,500.
The Iams family, led by Bill and Judy Iams, who own Log Cabin Fence, has hosted the clay pigeon shoot for the past eight years, and have donated more than $115,000 to area nonprofits including CASA for Kids and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Richards said she was driving to Uniontown to pick up feed around 11 a.m. Sept. 4 when she received a phone call from her mother.
Judy Iams was unloading groceries when she saw smoke coming from the house.
Firefighters arrived in less than 20 minutes.
Investigators believe the fire was caused by a furnace.
The bedrooms of the Iams’ two children were destroyed, and their son, Jaxon, 8, lost a collection of farm toys. Trinity South Elementary School held a toy drive to help replace some of the toys, Richards said.
Since the fire, the Iams family has lived in an apartment and plans to rebuild on the property.
They are thankful nobody was injured in the fire, and the family wanted to pay it forward to firefighters.
“Losing a house in a fire puts things into perspective,” said Iams. “Things are just things. Nothing can take away the memories you have made along the way, and as long as you have your health and your faith, family and friends, you have more than you need.”