LENDING A HAND
PICTURE ROCKS – The Carranza family in Picture Rocks consider themselves very fortunate to live in what they consider a very “heart warming” community. Owner, Jenny Carranza said she couldn’t believe how many people showed up shortly after their home on Bennett Street almost burned down. “We have so many people to thank,” she said.
When a fire started in their back addition, Jenny and her husband, Leo and daughter, Faith were sleeping upstairs when they smelled the smoke. They had enough time to get out and save a few memoirs and family photos. The lower level was completely destroyed.
That morning in April a close friend of Leo’s arrived on the scene and immediately started to throw out burned debris, tear down walls, and scrubbing the hardwood floors. Leo just shook his head and said, “No, this can’t be done. It’s too much.” But soon he admitted he joined his friend and decided to save their inherited farmhouse, known by Jenny’s descendants to have some historical significance.
Leo has not stopped working since the fire took place in April. He is in awe of the tremendous support they have been given since the tragedy. Thanks to his employer at Weis Markets for initially allowing him time off and a ‘Family Fire Fund’ established at Muncy Bank & Trust, Leo and his family have been able to begin restoring their beloved homestead.
Not having homeowner’s insurance and living on limited incomes, plus Faith was getting ready to go to college this year, the Carranza’s said they could not have survived this without the donations of their community. “People are very amazing. People who don’t even know us, came to help,” they said.
So that they could have a place to live, a trailer was loaned to the family by Harold and Pam Lyons. They stayed there until August 27. Buck Lumber also donated some flooring for their kitchen which was totally destroyed. A new kitchen is being built in what was formerly used as a dining room. “We got some used cabinets and a sink so I can have some running water,” said Jenny.
A big concern now is getting some heat. “We have Bob Dittmar to thank for helping us get some baseboard heat,” exclaimed Leo. Dittmar has been volunteering his time after he was able to get some materials for the couple through a program called “Oil Heat Cares.” Dittmar said he contacted the local chapter here in the Susquehanna Valley and was able to acquire 108 feet of baseboard heat. He and Leo have been working on the installation work hoping to have it up and running on the first floor in time for the holidays. “The attic really needs some insulation,” said Dittmar. In the meantime, they are using electric heaters in the bedroom and living room. “And we have had a warm October,” said Jenny, “but August was cold.”
Back in July Dittmar started making inquiries once he learned of Carranza’s plight. “They are a customer and I wanted to help.” He knew of the oil heat program because he had served as president for the Susquehanna Valley Chapter Hall Association of Oil & Service. “We got boilers donated for other people,” explained Dittmar.
An oil tank was donated by Hope Community Church in Loyalsock Township because they switched to gas heat. Since April they have been working on this project. Meanwhile lots of help arrived over the summer to help clean and scrub the remaining woodwork and floors. Jenny said she is still worried about the smell of smoke once the heat is turned on. The Carranza’s said they have so many people to thank. “People would just show up and start working,” Jenny said.
They helped put in new insulation, electrical wiring and some new drywall. “That was the hardest,” Jenny added, “working on the drywall and mudding it. Leo and I did a lot of the work ourselves. We watched videos on the internet to see how to do things. We really learned a lot.”
Local churches donated drywall. Friends Church in Hughesville came and helped with much of the cleaning efforts and drywall according to the couple. “They also gave us some cash,” Jenny acknowledged. “We received help from many churches.”
“The Baptist Church in Hughesville donated funds for plumbing,” said Leo. “We have so many people to thank,” they kept saying. One of their biggest supporters was the Picture Rocks Lions Club who donated $2500 that was used to help buy supplies and tools. “Without the proper tools, we would never have been able to do the work,” said Jenny. “We are so grateful for the time and amounts of money here and there, especially Bill and Faye Cheeseman who connected with us from Friends Church.”
The congregation at Agape Fellowship helped to pay for the windows. “We have Pastor Dale Rintelman to thank for helping with this,” said the couple. The Lycoming Council of Churches also donated funds, TJ’s Market in Hughesville donated and the Picture Rocks Baptist Church.
“Baxter Plumbing is working with us along with the American Rescue Workers to pay off the new plumbing. We still need parts for the boiler,” Leo said. “I also have my co-workers to thank,” added Leo who is now working two jobs besides cleaning his home. “They gave us some cleaning supplies and flexible hours so I can work here.” Jenny said he is often working until 2 or 3 in the morning.
The couple said they feel good about the progress, although much of it will have to wait until the following year. Now that they know the process and how much faith and community support has been gathered, the couple now want to spend their efforts “starting an organization,” said Leo, “so that we can help other fire victims.”
“We had to learn how to do a lot of this stuff ourselves,” said Jenny. “And now it’s our turn to help other victims,” added Leo, “especially elderly seniors or a young mother with children. Not everyone will have fire insurance,” they said.