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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Aaron Collins, the executive director of Our House, is moved by the community’s support following a fire that destroyed a pantry on its Brookeville campus.
“The fire was terrible, but the response has been truly amazing,” he said.
Our House is a residential job-training program that houses 16 at-risk males, ages 16-21, at 19715 Zion Road.
Just before 7 p.m. April 18, the trainees were attending an etiquette class in a different building when fire broke out in the pantry, which was housed a detached building located just off the kitchen.
Collins said it was a total loss, including about $15,000 worth of food, six deep-freezers, other kitchen equipment and the structure itself.
A fire destroyed a pantry and its contents on the Brookeville campus of Our House on April 18. The cause had not yet been determined by The Greater Olney News press time.
As of The Greater Olney News press time last week, the cause of the fire had not been determined. Collins said there was no indication that it was electrical in nature or caused by arson.
Our House officials are planning to rebuild, but were still negotiating with the insurance company last week. Because the structure is considered an outbuilding, it may not be fully covered.
Collins said he has worked with youth for 20 years and has never experienced anything like the community’s response to the fire.
There had been a constant stream of restaurants, businesses, churches and individuals dropping off meals, checks and other donations, including three brand-new freezers.
“Never in my life have I seen the level of community support that Olney brought to our doorstep,” he said. “It is humbling.”
Lori Hecox, who serves as the community liaison for Our House, agreed.
“The day after the fire we had people stop by with homemade baked goods, milk, cereal and canned food,” she said. “It was a nonstop flood of love driving up our long driveway. I’ve truly never experienced such a show of support.”
Collins said it was especially heartwarming and important for the trainees to see.
“They come from a culture of ‘if something goes wrong, nobody helps,’” he said. “This experience will leave an indelible impact on their hearts.”
Collins said they received the go-ahead from the fire investigator and the insurance company to move forward.
Hecox said immediate needs include one or two dumpsters, storage containers and commercial kitchen items.
Our House’s supervised and structured learning environment operates 24 hours per day all year long. The young men learn trades such as carpentry, drywall and roofing, as well as life skills training, academics and therapy sessions in the evenings.
They offer their carpentry and construction work is done free of charge for other non-profit agencies. Each Saturday the trainees perform community service work and can be seen helping out at almost any Olney event, including Olney Days.
For more information or to donate, go to https://our-house.org. Donations should be designated for the pantry.
Terri Hogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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