PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — For Joy Buskirk, the memories of a fire her family experienced years ago prompted her to do something for families who are impacted by the devastation of a fire now.
The Parkersburg resident is putting together After The Disaster Kits and has begun distributing them to a couple of the local fire departments.
The kits include toiletry items and things someone might need in the immediate aftermath of a fire, Buskirk said.
“This is something that has been on my heart for a while,” she said.
It was 16 years ago this October that Buskirk experienced a house fire that left her and her family “with only the clothes on our backs,” she said.
Firefighters put out the fire and although their house did not burn completely down, they lost pets, had extensive smoke damage and were left wondering what to do next as well as how they were going to handle their immediate needs. Things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and other basic needs could add up at a time when money may not be readily available, but needed by someone impacted by a fire.
“I thought it would be awesome to be able to get toiletry items to fire victims,” Buskirk said. “Whether you go to a hotel or a relative’s house, you still need these things to be able to use.”
There are three types of kits Buskirk is creating which are geared toward men, women and children (12 and under). They include body wash, shampoo/conditioner, a comb, deodorant, shaving cream, razors, feminine products, a hand towel, a wash cloth, kids bodywash, toothbrush, toothpaste, pony tail holders, a bar of soap, a travel-size package of tissues and small stuffed animals.
“I feel these kits give some stability in a chaotic situation,” Buskirk said.
She has been going to local dollar stores and picking up many of the items she includes in the kits as she has the money available. Many of the early kits she funded out of her own pocket.
“I work through the week so this has become a weekend thing for me to do,” Buskirk said. “I go out, get some items to make these up.”
However, recently she has had three people donate money and another three people who donated items.
She is looking for people to make donations. All of the items are around a certain size to be able to fit in a gallon Ziploc bag. Containers of body wash should be 18 ounces, shaving cream should be 6 ounces, kids bodywash should be 12 ounces, kids toothpaste should be 3.5 ounces, adult toothpaste should be 4.6 ounces and shampoo should be 18 ounces.
She is looking at purchasing restaurant gift cards for fire officials to be able to give to an affected family to pay for one meal.
Immediately after a fire, one concern is how and where will they eat.
“This would allow them to be able to get that one meal and be able to sit down and talk about how they will go forward,” Buskirk said. “It is one way to relieve some of the stress people are feeling at that moment.”
She has made around 40 kits and distributed them to the Parkersburg Fire Department and the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department. She is working on others and is starting to meet with other local fire departments about eventually supplying them with some as well. She will be speaking before the Wood County Firefighters Association soon about her project.
“Many of the fire departments really like it and have been really receptive to the idea,” Buskirk said.
Parkersburg Fire Chief Jason M. Matthews said Buskirk contacted him a couple of months ago about her project.
“She has them broken into Man, Woman, Child (girl and boy),” he said. “These kits contain hygiene products, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, washcloth, deodorant and more.
“We will have these available to give to individuals that just had a fire. We call the Red Cross at the request of the individuals that had the fire, but not all say they would like the assistance. These will be great in those situations. Even if the Red Cross does assist them, these items are already made up and the individuals do not have to go to a store and get them.”
Buskirk said she doesn’t want to interfere with the work of other agencies helping fire victims. The idea is that these kits are something emergency crews can give to the people immediately, making it one less thing a family has to worry about in an already stressful time.
“They can go quick,” Buskirk said. “My goal is to be able to supply Wood County fire departments and keep them supplied.
“I want to be able to have enough kits made up and be able to deliver them when they are needed.”
Buskirk has started the process of turning this into a non-profit organization.
“This is something I want to be able to keep doing for as long as I am able,” she said. “It is about neighbor helping neighbor.
“We should be helping each other. It is not much, but is something.”
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