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Canajoharie, NY ,

Linda Kellett - Members of the the Canajoharie High School Community Action Committee helped entertain children. Present were Dani and Diane Raffa of Fort Plain, group adviser Donalee Bowerman of Canajoharie, Makaila Belden of Fort Plain and Jade Rorick of Gloversville.


Community turns out to support local family in wake of house fire

Thursday, November 15, 2012 - Updated: 9:56 AM


C-S-E News Staff

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NELLISTON — Slightly more than a month after flames ravaged the town of Minden home of August “Auggie” and Billie Jo Florian, area residents turned out in droves to show their support during a benefit at the Canajoharie-Fort Plain Elks Lodge.

The family of four and their pets were left homeless after flames tore through their tidy doublewide at 948 Fordsbush Road shortly after noon on Sept. 27. They were at the lodge on Saturday along with several hundred people who crowded into the sprawling building for roast pork, a Chinese auction, raffles, music and other entertainment.

Among those present were members of the Canajoharie High School Community Action Committee, who hosted children’s activities during the event.

CAC Advisor Donalee Bowerman, of Canajoharie, said six students from the group were supervising a coloring and origami table inside the lodge as well as leading games like Sorry, tag and Twister outside as part of a service project.

Others helping with the fundraiser included Billie Jo’s brother, Ray Sitterly, who came from Norwich with his family and friend, Jason Kuhn, of South New Berlin, to slow-cook the pig. Dubbing themselves the “red-neck barbecue,” they said they started the roaster at 5:30 a.m. that morning.

Sitterly said, “I got a whole live pig two days ago, took it to the butcher and had over 100 pounds of meat.”

When asked their culinary secrets, Kuhn said they used a barbecue rub recipe and grilling sauce to flavor the meat, which was roasted in a wood-fueled cooker.

The pork was so tender, it pulled apart, said Sitterly.

“It’s a pulled pork. You can’t cut it. It falls apart,” he said.

Auggie and Billie Jo are forging a new start. On Saturday, they said they have started rebuilding at the same location as their former home. “It’s in the same area. We’re doing a stick-built home,” said one.

“Everyone’s been really awesome. We can’t thank them enough. If not for friends and family and the community, we’re not sure where we’d be. We thank them all immensely,” the couple said.

Tiffany Diefendorf, who helped organize the event with Julie Florian, said, “We came together as family and friends in just a short amount of time, and the end result was phenomenal. People ask why I like living in a small town, and Saturday justified my reason. When a family in our community goes through a tragedy, not only do family and friends come together, but neighbors, businesses, and even caring strangers show their support as well.”

She continued, “The Florian family was so touched and overwhelmed by the show of support, and all I can say is thank you, which does not even begin to show our gratitude. We pulled this benefit together in a little over a month, and it was one of biggest I have ever been too, which shows that love for a family and the determination to help them, can overcome any obstacle.”

Julie Florian, Auggie’s sister-in-law, said she was amazed at how people showed up for the event. “We never had a chance to count how many people came. We didn’t expect so many,” she said.

Despite the larger-than-anticipated crowd, she said there was enough food for everyone, and the Chinese auction was “unbelievable.”

“We had close to 75 Chinese auction baskets to give away,” she said. “I was surprised at how many people contributed.”

She expressed thanks to Diefendorf for her efforts on behalf of the family. Additionally, she echoed Auggie and Billie Jo’s thanks, noting the Florian family wanted to thank the community, relatives and friends for coming out to support them.


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