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Community steps up to aid North Huntingdon family

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 3:18 p.m.

Members of the Scheafnocker family of North Huntingdon were just settling into their evening routine Jan. 28, when their lives changed dramatically.

“It was about 8:30 p.m., and my husband, Kevin, was just sitting down to dinner while I was busy making bottles for our 2-month-old twins, Sofia and Alexander,” said Nicole Scheafnocker, 38. “I heard the door in the hallway move and thought the cat went down the basement, so I checked because he sometimes gets stuck down there.”

Scheafnocker summoned her husband when she saw smoke wafting up from basement.

“He ran downstairs and came back up quickly and told us that we needed to get out of the house as he put the babies in my arms and covered them with a blanket,” she said.

Within minutes, flames swept through their home on Cherry Lane and heavily damaged the structure, including the family vehicle.

Whatever didn't burn was destroyed by smoke and water. Their German shepherd, Raegan, escaped the fire, but the family's cat, Dexter, died in the blaze, Nicole Scheafnocker said.

Four volunteer firefighters suffered injuries that were not life-threatening in the incident. North Huntingdon police said the accidental fire is believed to have started in a clothes dryer.

“We're happy that we were able to salvage a few of our memories,” Nicole Scheafnocker said.

“We found the hospital bracelets and the ‘belly-button scabs' from when the twins were born, along with a blanket that an aunt passed down to us. We're still going through some papers and things that were in the china closet, but mostly, everything is gone.”

In the months since the fire, the family has been trying to put the incident behind them and rebuild their lives.

“Thankfully the twins have been a distraction for us,” Nicole Scheafnocker said. “They keep us pretty busy, which keeps us from dwelling too much on what happened.”

The Norwin community has stepped up to let the family know that they are not on their own.

“When our son Vincent learned about the fire, he approached my husband and I to ask what we could do to help the family,” said Karen Baer, whose husband, Paul, is senior pastor of Suburban Community Church on Arona Road.

Vincent Baer also serves as a worship leader at the nondenominational Christian church.

“It didn't matter that we didn't know the family. We felt great compassion for them and wanted to do something to involve the community in helping them get them back on their feet,” she said.

A spaghetti dinner Feb. 16 raised nearly $3,500 for the family, along with $1,500 in donations from members of the community and several other local churches, Karen Baer said.

The Stewartsville Lions Club has planned a pancake breakfast March 30 to assist the family.

“We do two of these fundraisers a year and put the money in our activities fund,” said Tony Mastro, the club's publicity director.

“But when we heard about the fire, we decided it was important to help the family get through this very difficult time.”

Ashley Stoken, the owner of Synergy Salon and Day Spa in North Huntingdon, learned about the fire on Facebook and started spreading the word that the business was accepting donations that would be passed onto the family.

“Within a day, people from the community started dropping off clothing for the parents and the twins, along with diapers, baby wipes, car seats, household items and even furniture,” Stoken said. “It was a phenomenal response. It didn't take long before the massage room where we were storing the items was filled to the ceiling.”

Nicole Scheafnocker said the assistance her family is receiving “is overwhelming.”

“It's incredibly heartwarming to live in a community of people who are so generous,” she said. “We are so thankful to everybody who has helped us.”

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