Hocking Hills fire victims receive financial help

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

When Christmas is over, we oftentimes forget about needs in the community until the season rolls around next year, but for the staff of the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge, there will be needs until the lodge is rebuilt, which means a need for assistance will continue throughout the year. While no one was injured in the blaze, two dozen workers and their families were impacted by a massive Dec. 8 fire that destroyed the Dining Lodge in Logan, Ohio two weeks before Christmas.

Thanks to the support of a generous local community and donors from around Ohio, in just eight days, the Friends of The Hocking Hills State Park reports that a total of $21,377 has been raised for the staff of the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge. But Julieann Burroughs, president of Friends of Hocking Hills State Park, the need will continue.

Burroughs said as a result of donations that came from across Ohio, on Saturday, Dec. 17, members of the Friends of Hocking Hills State Park organization presented Hocking Hills Dining Lodge manager Amy Mulleter with checks and gift cards for the displaced employees, with each receiving a check for $819.50, plus a $50 Kroger Gift Card. In addition, those workers who have children received toys, plus additional gift cards that can be redeemed for gifts for their children. Hocking Hills Dining Lodge employees have, between them, 10 children, including seven girls ranging in age from seven to 16; two boys, 10 and 16, and one newborn baby.

“It was treat everybody equally and fairly, everybody gets the same amount, regardless of whether they are full time, part time,” Burroughs said. “The ones with the kids actually got a little bit more because there was a bunch of toys donated by the local Logan Kiwanis that donated $550, that had to be used toward the children, which is totally respectable. So those will kids got a little extra help, but they need it.”

Burroughs said the need is ongoing.

“People may think, Oh, they collected $21,000, they’re not going to need anymore help,” Burroughs said. “That’s not true. We want people to continue to help.”

Mulleter recalled to Burroughs a moment neither will probably ever forget.

“One Saturday when a lot of these folks came to pick up their checks, there was one lady who had children, a baby and a young son, who started crying,” Burroughs said. “She expected when she picked up her check it was going to be like $100 or something, and when she got an $819 check, Amy said she couldn’t quit crying.”

As a 501c3 non-profit organization, the FHHSP group will continue collecting funds for the relief effort, with 100% of donations going to Dining Lodge employees and their families. The Friends of The Hocking Hills State Park group is seeking additional donations to support the effort and the families beyond the holidays until they find other employment. Anyone wishing to donate is encouraged to send a check or money order to: Friends of Hocking Hills State Park, P.O. Box 101, Logan OH, 43138. Donors are asked to please mark all donations with “HH Dining Lodge Employee Relief Fund” and make checks payable to FHHSP. Donations are 100 percent tax deductible and may also be dropped off at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center, 13178 SR 664 S., Logan, OH 43138.

Individuals and businesses wishing to support efforts to assist the impacted employees during the holidays and beyond are encouraged to contact the Friends of the Hocking Hills State Park, (877) 403-4477.

FHHSP also has set up a GoFundMe account where anyone can make contributions to employees and their families at gofundme.com/hocking-hills-fire-employee-fund.

“I just spoke to ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) yesterday (Dec. 19, 2016) and they have every plan to rebuilt,” Burroughs said. “As soon as it is all settled, they will then set the plans for a rebuild. They are committed to a rebuild and it will happen. They will try to make it as fast and quick as possible.”

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.