Taking care of their own

Community rallies around family who lost everything in a fire

Fundraisers for the Schafte family

Glen and Dorothy Schafte lost their Washougal home to a fire on Jan. 11. The Schafte’s lived there with their granddaughter, Melissa Schafte, as well as Melissa’s aunt, Carrie Russell, and her aunt’s fiance, Tyler Kinkade.

The Washougal High School American Sign Language Club is planning a fundraising performance for Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m., at the Washburn Performing Arts Center at WHS, 1201 39th St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $3 per person. During intermission, refreshments will be available for sale. All proceeds will be donated to the Schaftes.

K & M Drive-In, 3414 N.E. Third Ave., Camas, will hold a fundraiser Thursday, Jan. 19, from 3 to 8 p.m. Fifteen percent of the proceeds from participating sales will be donated to the Schafte family.

Donations of gift cards can be dropped off at the WHS school office, 1201 39th St., during school hours.

Monetary donations can also be made to a GoFundMe account, set up for the family.

Talk to the members of the American Sign Language Club at Washougal High School, and they are likely to tell you that this special program and the people who are part of it are extensions of their own families.

So when one of those family members is hurting, the first question that comes to mind is, “How can we help?”

In the early morning hours of Jan. 11, fire ripped through the mobile home of Glen and Dorothy Schafte, at 30214 N.E. 10th St., in Washougal.

When firefighters arrived, the structure was already fully involved. Crews at the scene faced challenges including snow on the ground and a lack of fire hydrants nearby. The best they could do was keep the flames from spreading to surrounding property.

The 2,000 square foot, four-bedroom ranch-style home, and vehicles, were all destroyed.

The Schafte’s lived there with their granddaughter, Melissa Schafte, as well as Melissa’s aunt, Carrie Russell, and her aunt’s fiance, Tyler Kinkade.

Although thankfully no one was injured, the family lost everything, and was left with just the clothes on their backs. They are currently staying in a hotel until more permanent accommodations can be arranged.

According to ASL Club Advisor Tami Grant, Melissa, a 2016 WHS graduate, was part of the ASL program and was also in the band. As soon as Grant and her students heard about the tragic situation, they wanted to lend a hand.

“I told my officers about the fire and they insisted we do something,” Grant said. “They are a great group of kids and I’m super proud of them.”

The ASL Club is planning a fundraising performance set for Wednesday, Feb. 1. Originally scheduled for Jan. 18, it was canceled because all schools were closed that day due to inclement weather.

“Melissa was in ASL for four years,” she said. “The kids really look up to her, so of course we want to do whatever we can.”

According to Matthew Hickey, a WHS senior and ASL Club public relations officer, it means a lot to the kids to be able to support their friend.

“If you have ever taken ASL at Washougal High School, you know that it is like a small, tight-knit family,” he said. “When we saw the hardship that the Schafte family was facing, we knew that we needed to help out one of our own.”

WHS senior and ASL Club President Meghan Jackson said when she joined the group as a freshman, she found a place where she received acceptance and support. Now, she hopes to pay it forward.

“After hearing one of our ASL alumni had lost their house in a fire, everyone immediately wanted to do whatever they could to help,” she said. “Holding this ASL show to help Melissa and her family makes my experience in ASL come full circle. I was welcomed with love and I want to leave showing love and kindness to one of the people who welcomed me with open arms.”

Other efforts to provide assistance to the Schafte family are in the works.

Donations of gift cards can be dropped off at the WHS school office during school hours, with attention to WHS Band Director Kelly Ritter.

In addition K & M Drive-In, owned by Kevin and Melinda Bruzzone, will hold a fundraiser today, from 3 to 8 p.m. Fifteen percent of the proceeds from participating sales during those five hours will be donated to the Schafte family.

Restaurant Manager Anthony Valdez was ASL Club president for two years and attended WHS with Melissa Schafte.

“We’re really excited to help,” he said.

A GoFundMe account has also been set up to accept monetary donations. As of Wednesday afternoon, $2,779 has been raised.

“We live in a small town. We may not have big buildings and big events, but we have big hearts and we take care of our own in need,” Grant said. “Seeing that even our young people feel the same way makes me even more proud of our community.”