A farewell party was held by the local Iron Horse Helpers at the Womelsdorf VFW Pavilion in Womelsdorf on July 26.
Amid the festivities of fellowship, food, beverages, and a great band, the members of the group were presented with a “Certificate of Recognition” from the Berks County Board of Commissioners lauding the organization for services rendered to Berks County and neighboring residents.
It all started 10 years ago when a friend was involved in a very serious motorcycle accident resulted in the loss of her leg while vacationing in Daytona Beach, Fla. That hit hard for Morgantown couple Roger and Linda Jacobs, along with Roger’s brother and their extended Berks County family and friends of 13. Soon they started recruiting funds and workers who succeeded in making her home handicapped accessible.
Through word of mouth their philanthropic spirit was spread. In 2005 they were approached to organize a fundraiser for fallen Reading Police Officer, Michael Weis II. It was the success needed at this very tragic time to help the family.
In 2006, it was a fundraiser for local teenager, Ryan Hopple, who was paralyzed by a tree that was struck by lightning in a freak thunderstorm accident at the Womelsdorf carnival.
Then In 2007, they assisted at a fundraising event to raise money and animal supplies/food for a local area animal shelter to honor a friend’s teenage daughter who loss her life due to an automobile accident.
It was during that year that the family and friends with a dedicated following of loyal supporters gave birth to an organization which ultimately became “The Iron Horse Helpers. Barry Jacobs was soon elected as the president and the following mission statement was adopted:
“Our mission focuses on helping others in our local surrounding communities deal with the emotional and financial stress of life’s trials and tribulations caused by their misfortunes.” From webpage ironhorsehelpers.org.
“From 2004 to the present the frequency of our administrative meetings; organizational skills; research skills; communication skills; lessons learned; number of events; supporters and monies raised all increased yearly,” said Michelle Jacobs Becker one of the original members.
With a theory not to give cash to any beneficiaries, but rather to purchase material items needed, or to provide gift certificates to ease costs, and pay bills, etc., they were assured that their fundraising money went toward worthy and/or necessary items.
The year 2008 brought the need for multiple fundraisers for a local family with four children. The oldest child, 14, had Leukemia, the two middle children had no illnesses and the youngest was born with an esophagus that didn’t meet his stomach, this condition required yearly surgeries.
Then in 2009, the Lebanon VA Medical Center was in need of ‘care package bags’ to include items not provided by the VA. IHH’s multiple fundraisers and helpers allowed them to purchase and assemble ‘basic necessity care package bags’ for all 117 permanent residents with the remaining funds earmarked for the residents’ activities.
In 2010, the beneficiaries were three local veterans, US Air Force Captain Tony Simone, US ARMY Specialist Adam Keys and US ARMY Specialist Jessie Reed – respectfully, two were seriously injured and one was killed in action.
2011 was a special year. They were able to support local needy families with children in the Reading Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit who were struggling with medical bills that were not covered by medical insurance along with their travel expense burdens caused by the out of town commute.
That same year they were also invited to join a group for “Wreaths Across America” to raise money to purchase, personally escort and place Christmas wreathes on Veteran’s grave sites at our local National Cemetery in Indiantown Gap, PA
“Wreaths Across America” is an annual event held in December at National cemeteries across all 50 states and at 24 National cemeteries on foreign soil. See: http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/
In 2012, they served Operation Purple Camp (a local camp for military children with one or both parents that were actively deployed). US Marine Corps, Lance Corporal Mark Fidler and US ARMY, Specialist Ed Guldin both local Veterans were both involved in separate IED explosions causing both to be double amputees. In addition, IHH held a separate event to raise money again for “Wreathes Across America”.
The following year included helping local families in need and once again ‘Operation Purple Camp.’ The 2013 one day event was their largest. Superseding 2012 by 15% with about 475 people attending. Another fundraiser for “Wreaths Across America” rounded out their year.
As it turned out 2014 would be their last year with Operation Purple Camp their final beneficiary.
The Iron Horse Helpers are retiring.
“We are all getting older and it is a lot of hard work, year long, which we have enjoyed. The past 10 years have proven to be most gratifying for all of us. The people we have met, the friendships that developed, the many doors we have opened for others have been priceless,” said member Roger Jacobs.
However the torch will be passed through several IHH members who are involved with other community organizations. They plan to continue helping those organizations to succeed with their own community service.
President Barry Jacobs summed it up “We thank all of our supporters for their help. We could not have been so successful without them”.
All this goodness and compassion comes from residents and friends of the Tri County Area.