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STOW -- Because of the heroic efforts of a Twinsburg man, Jammie Efford survived a devastating fire at her former Twinsburg apartment in February.
Now, thanks to the selfless efforts of a Stow group, Efford is getting a monetary boost to "help her get back on her feet."
Helping Our Neighbors in Stow, where Efford's recently opened dog-grooming business is located, heard about her plight and gave Efford a check for $500 to "help her get back on her feet," said John Pribonic, a Stow Councilor and a founding member of Helping Our Neighbors.
"The only criteria we have are that you live [or work] in Stow or Munroe Falls, and that you have a need," Pribonic said during a March 8 check presentation at Efford's Hudson Drive business, Pets 'R' Us, which opened Feb. 17 -- only days after the fire.
Efford said she was grateful for the check and community support, adding that she is still staying either at her business or with family as she searches for a new place to live.
On Feb. 11, Efford was asleep in her Whitewood Apartment off Ravenna Road in Twinsburg around 5 p.m. when a fire began in her kitchen, likely from the stove, through Twinsburg firefighters never determined an official cause due to the searing heat of the blaze and the complete damage it caused.
Thankfully, neighbor and longtime friend Wade Wooten happened past Efford's apartment and saw smoke. Wooten went in through Efford's front door and yelled to wake her, but couldn't get to her because of the fire.
Wooten yelled at Efford to meet him at the back of the apartment, and he ran around the outside of the apartment to the balcony landing in the back. Efford and Wooten were able to escape off the back balcony as it collapsed. Wooten, who was honored at a recent Twinsburg City Council meeting for his efforts, was treated for smoke inhalation and released.
The apartment was completely destroyed, and Efford lost everything, including her four beloved yorkie dogs. There were no other injuries in the blaze.
"I lost everything," Efford said. "When I jumped off the balcony, I didn't even have shoes on. My sister, when she came over, had to lend me her shoes because my socks were soaked through."
Wooten's good deeds were apparently not yet complete.
The U.S. Navy veteran returned his own yorkie, Chloe, to Efford, a dog that Efford had given him years earlier when Chloe was a puppy.
"He said, 'You need her more than I do right now,'" Efford said.
Helping Our Neighbors formed about five years ago to assist Stow residents following devastating flooding.
"We had a lot of flooding," said Janet D'Antonio, another member. "I remember thinking 'this is really bad,' and I wanted to do something."
Pribonic said the money raised for Helping Our Neighbors goes through the Stow Community Foundation. Donations are tax-deductible.
D'Antonio said Helping Our Neighbors has occasional fundraisers, such as ice cream socials, to raise money for residents who find themselves in need.
For details on Helping Our Neighbors, call Pribonic at 330-842-9687.