Phoenixville community comes together to help residents through winter weather

Phoenixville resident Lisa Longo and her daughter Sierra make a big pot of Chili for the residents without power in the area at the shelter at Barkley Elementary Thursday. Photo by Barry Taglieber
Cots were set up at a warm shelter at Barkley Elementary for Phoenixville area residents without power Thursday. Photo by Barry Taglieber

In the aftermath of last week’s storm, Phoenixville residents didn’t have to look far for help.

Borough and school district officials set up a warming center at Barkley Elementary last Thursday, providing cots for those looking for a warm place to nap while volunteers served warm meals to those without power. Councilman Jeremy Dalton stressed that it was not an official county shelter, however, and that it was set up as a last resort since other emergency centers in the area had lost power.

Dalton said the center helped not only residents from Phoenixville, but also families from Spring City, Linfield and Birchrunville.

Another place Phoenixville and Spring City residents were able to go last week was the Phoenixville YMCA, which offered warm showers to the public regardless of membership, she said. And Foresta’s market donated soup, bread and cheese for the makeshift shelter at Barkley Elementary.

Phoenixville resident Lisa Longo and her daughter, Sierra, made and served chili at the Barkley shelter. Longo said the massive power outages in the area reminded her of her own experience losing power during Hurricane Irene in 2011.

“Suddenly we knew what it was like not to be able to take hot showers or eat a hot meal,” she said. “And that was in the summer. So with the cold, I knew I had to do what I could to help.”

She said she immediately decided to cook warm meals for residents without power because, as her daughter jokes, she is “such a mom,” always cooking for others.

But she stressed that it was a community effort.

“This is not me, this is the community that came out and helped,” she said. “It’s why I love living here. I feel like whenever anyone needs something, this community really helps out.”

She also praised the efforts of the volunteer-based Phoenixville Office of Emergency Management in the aftermath of the storm.

However, she complained that the county’s emergency services procedures are convoluted. She said she is working on drafting an emergency management plan to present to local officials to get out ahead of future storms.

“Once we lose power, it’s too late to tell people [where to go for help]; they don’t have power,” she said.

But there was no doubt in her mind that the community will step up in the aftermath of today’s storm like it did last week to help those in need.

Phoenixville resident Jan Swarr agreed, asking “Would you expect anything else from Phoenixville?”

“There was absolutely no question in our minds that we’d pitch in to help. It was instant,” she said.

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