From left, Kelton Keller, 25, of Liverpool Township; Cody Muhek, 27, of Litchfield Township; and Jason Schriver, 35, and Steve Schafer, 28, of Grafton in Lorain County. The men drove two trucks with 24 bales of hay on each trailer and other supplies to Haxtun, Colo., to assist victims of wildfires.
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A caravan of semitrailers and pickups from Medina County and across Ohio is making its way to western states that were affected by wildfires earlier this month. The fires swept through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado, killing six people and destroying more than a million acres of land, according to news reports.
“Those people out there, that’s their whole life,” Westfield Township resident Neal Lengacher said Wednesday. Lengacher, 29, is driving one of about 50 trucks traveling to Ashland, Kan., to deliver hay and other supplies for the victims Friday.
“It’s great to see everyone wanting to go out and help people, donating their time to go out there,” he said. “Every little bit helps, no matter how small or how big.”
The nationwide initiative spread across social media and led to the recruiting of farmers from the area to contribute, including the Keller family from Liverpool Township.
“The people that shared stuff on Facebook and social media means a lot,” Lengacher said. “That gets (the word) out there.”
Two Colorado counties hit
In Colorado, the blaze consumed 32,500 acres across two counties, according to the Colorado Farm Bureau’s website. Three homes and multiple structures were lost, in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars of value in crops and feed, and dozens of cattle and horses.
Kelton Keller, of Liverpool Township, said when he learned about the disaster on social media and farming publications, he immediately wanted to help.
“I read an article in the Farm and Dairy paper that talked about how over a million acres and thousands of cattle and horses were killed … fifth-generation farmers that had been breeding to get the correct animal in their herd … is now wiped out and gone,” he said. “It made me cry like a little baby.”
Keller, 25, was joined by Cody Muhek, of Litchfield Township, along with Steve Schafer and Jason Schriver, of Grafton in Lorain County, in his 2,400-mile journey with two 30-foot trailers full of hay bales.
Each trailer carried 24 square-shaped bales of hay, which weigh about 700 pounds each. They began their trip at 6 p.m. Tuesday and arrived Wednesday afternoon.
Keller said six people from Medina and Lorain counties donated hay bales, clothes, food, water, feed, halters and $1,000 in cash donations to the relief fund.
His sister, Kayleigh, and her boyfriend, Corey Sammarco, also bought and donated 20 bales of hay.
“It’s very humbling and it really makes me see the good in people,” Keller said. “To see loads of hay going out, it’s heartwarming and brings tears to my eyes. I’ve got the chills talking about it.”
Keller is a fourth-generation farmer who works more than 300 acres in Liverpool Township. His family also raises livestock and operates Keller Meats in Litchfield Township.
He said he believes the support would be reciprocated if farmers in Ohio encountered a disaster.
“When you’re a farmer, you’re not just a part of your farm family, you’re part of the agriculture family,” Keller said. “We’re all one big family. I don’t know these people as much as I know the guy on a street corner but we’re helping because it’s the right thing to do.”
Shawn Martini of the Colorado Farm Bureau said cash and material donations have been brought in from states as far as Ohio and California.
“The outpouring of support for fire victims continues to be amazing,” Martini said. “It’s this kind of voluntary support that makes the agriculture community so special, regardless of what state you’re from.”
Donations can be made at www.coloradofarmbureau.com.
21 counties affected in Kansas
In Kansas, more than 600,000 acres in 21 counties were burned, according to the Kansas Farm Bureau.
Husband and wife Josh and Brittany Collins, of Wadsworth, and cousins, Neal and John Lengacher of Creston, will be part of about 50 semitrailers and pickups traveling to Ashland, Kan., on Friday to deliver hay and other supplies.
The group is meeting in London, Ohio, in Madison County in advance of the 17-hour trip.
“It’s awesome,” Neal Lengacher said. “We’re 1,100 miles away and it’s awesome to see so many people in the community and statewide get together and work together to go out there and help people that are in need and lost everything.”
Neal Lengacher said he’s collected about $2,000 in cash in addition to feed, milk replacers and barbed-wire fencing. He also is donating about 150 square bales, which weigh up to 900 pounds each, of hay from his land.
He is a third-generation farmer with about 320 acres between Westfield and Canaan townships and Creston. He owns Neal Lengacher Custom Farming Inc. in Creston in Wayne County.
Collins said he received about 100 round-shaped bales of hay, which weigh about 550 pounds each, bought fencing supplies, and had other items and cash donations given to him to deliver.
He said he was contacted by his father-in-law, Bruce Hall, of Hinckley Township, stating he had 180 round bales he wanted to donate.
“I was trying to think of something I could do and when (Hall) said he would donate, I wouldn’t think it’d be too hard to drive it out for him,” Collins said.
Collins said he was able to take about 30 bales.
Another 17 were picked up by another group, Hall said, adding that he still has about 130 bales to donate.
“I’ll donate it if I can find someone to put wheels underneath it,” said 56-year-old Hall, who farms about 450 acres from Hinckley to Sharon Township.
Collins, 28, owner of Collins Excavating and Construction in Wadsworth, will be joined by two employees on the trip.
Nancy Brown, fire relief coordinator of the Kansas Farm Bureau, said the office has received numerous calls nationwide from people wanting to help.
“I lost count a long time ago with the number of states” that have called, Brown said. “The outpouring of support the fire victims have received from across the nation is overwhelming and greatly appreciated. It’s going to be a long rebuilding process and all of the help from the farming community will go a long way to help with that.”
Donations can be made at www.kfb.org.
Acreage burned in Texas, Oklahoma
Nearly 500,000 acres burned across the Texas Panhandle earlier this month, costing some residents their lives, livestock and homes, according to the Texas Farm Bureau’s website.
Donations can be made at www.texasfarmbureau.org.
The Oklahoman newspaper reported between 70,000 and 100,000 acres have burned across Woodward, Harper and Beaver counties.
“Our hearts go out to the Oklahomans and others who have been affected by this serious wildfire situation,” Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Tom Buchanan said in a statement.
“We must stand by the farmers, ranchers and rural residents who have experienced serious threats to their homes and livelihoods. These are the good people providing our food, fiber and fuel every day, and today our neighbors in northwest Oklahoma need us to band together with them.”
To make a donation, visit www.okcattlemen.org.
Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or email@example.com.