Community support hits home for Shaler family
In the face of a personal tragedy, one local family feels it cannot say ‘thank you' enough for the support it has received from the Shaler Area community.
The Bagwells lost their possessions and Shaler Township home in a Feb. 13 fire, but the generosity of community members has allowed them to maintain a level of normalcy as they prepare to rebuild their home and their lives.
“It's unbelievable the goodness of people,” Lisa Bagwell said.
“Knowing you're going to be OK because you're not alone, it's not ‘why did it happen to us' but ‘why are people so good to us?'”
The fire started in the attic and spread through the wood frame house belonging to Mike and Lisa Bagwell and their four children, ages 13 to 20.
“You see all the fire trucks and think they're going to get it,” Lisa said.
“I watched it go from the attic, to the bedroom … once it went down to the front living room, I knew it was done.”
Once reports of the fire hit the news outlets, the community sprang into action.
The Shaler Area High School students organized a bake sale for the following day, and the Shaler Area teachers organized a fundraiser with all proceeds from both events benefitting the Bagwell family.
Coaches, teammates and classmates from the four children's activities provided monetary donations, gift cards and clothing.
Mike Bagwell, a township employee, received a donation from coworkers.
Saint Bonaventure School, the Knights of Columbus, the First Congressional Church of Etna, local Boy and Girl Scout troops and various student groups all showed their support by collecting donations for the family.
“From clothes to furniture, it's unbelievable,” Bagwell said.
“It's unbelievable the stuff you don't know where it came from, you feel bad you didn't say ‘thank you.'”
Donations even came from the rival school districts of Seneca Valley, North Allegheny and Butler, which donated track clothes that Bagwell said she “wears with pride.”
A community spaghetti dinner held just two weeks after the fire at Elfinwild Presbyterian Church fed a steady stream of friends, neighbors and community members who came to support the family.
“(The line) was all the way out through the building, outside into the parking lot,” said Lauri Edenhart of Shaler, who organized the dinner. “We served close to 800 people … because we ran out of food twice; we had people running to the store to buy more sauce and lettuce.”
Bagwell said she couldn't believe people would stand in an hour-long line for spaghetti just to help her family, and she was touched that complete strangers approached her with their phone numbers and offers to help.
Mike Bagwell was able to save the architectural drawings for the family's home from the fire, and they plan to rebuild the house in the same location.
Lisa Bagwell has filled a notebook with pages of people and community groups who have helped her family recover and knows that there are many more that she has missed.
To those listed in her notebook, and those who she may have missed, Bagwell wants to wish “the biggest ‘thank you' you can give to everybody.”
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.