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Hose company donates toys to Hurricane Sandy victims

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 9:02 p.m.
Christopher Tantlinger, rescue captain (from left); Debbie Campayno, second alarmer; Paul Church, fire chief; and Jeff Craig, fireman; all of Ligonier, box up toys at the Ligonier Volunteer Hose Co. No. 1 on Saturday. The toys were delivered to the FDNY Fire Museum in Manhattan Sunday and will be distributed to the families of more than 600 New York firefighters affected by Hurricane Sandy. Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review TAken by Rebecca Emanuel, December 15, 2012,

Members of Ligonier Volunteer Hose Co. 1 have been collecting toys since late November to donate to the families of New York firefighters affected by Hurricane Sandy.

After the storm, Ligonier's hose company Chief Paul Church contacted some friends at the New York Fire Department's Rescue 2 fire house in Brooklyn to offer help.

Church said he met Liam Flaherty, a 20-year firefighter who is also the drum major of the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, when the group came to Ligonier several yeares ago to march in the Fort Ligonier Days parade.

Church said Flaherty asked if residents of the Ligonier Valley would be willing to donate toys for the “FDNY Kids 2012 Toy Drive After Sandy” event the group was conducting.

“A lot of people stepped up, just to make it happen and a whole lot of people stepped up to bring in the toys,” Church said. “It was certainly a community effort. It says a lot about this community for a little town like this to be sending that amount of stuff to a big city like New York. It also shows the respect to the fire service too, which is good. The value of the toys, I don't really know. It doesn't matter. The value is that people are giving. That's where the real value is.”

Church estimated between 500 and 600 new toys were donated, along with more than $500 in gift cards. He said it was all he could do to fit everything into his pickup truck.

Church traveled the five-hour trip to Manhattan Sunday with Rescue Captain Chris Tantlinger and Lynne Weaver. They delivered the truckload of gifts to the FDNY Fire Museum where a room was made available to receive the toys for the fundraiser.

Weaver took photographs of the project and trip, which are available on the company's website at www.ligonierfire.com.

“We met Liam and his sister, Maureen Flahery, at the museum,” said Church. “We doubled what they already had collected, at the time. They were really overwhelmed at the amount of response we got from the Ligonier Valley Community.”

The toys will be distributed to the families at an event at the museum on Saturday. The Pipes and Drums group will perform at the event.

Most of the donations were made anonymously, Church said, though he mentioned an envelope with gift cards, which came from Ligonier residents who spend their winters in Arizona, showing the far reach of the toy drive.

Debbie Campayno, a second alarmer for the fire company and owner of La Spa Ligonier, also used her space to house gifts before they were loaded onto Church's truck. Campayno said she was very pleased with the response from residents in the Valley.

“At this time of year there are so many drives, so with one more added I wasn't sure how everybody would respond, but everybody stepped up,” Campayno said. “The key was the community support. It's all about community. The best thing is helping one another. When there is a need, you just help one another. There is no greater satisfaction than helping someone that is in need, no matter what.”

Church said he was very glad that his New York friends reached out to the Ligonier Valley, and he was happy to be able to help in their time of need.

“You know that they need help. That's what the brotherhood is all about; the fire service is a brother and sisterhood where we will do anything for each other,” Church said.

Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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