Connoquenessing couple starting over after house fire
On Thursday afternoon, Nov. 30, Barbara “Breeze” Menchyk and her husband, Frank, were out delivering dinner to some friends that, in Breeze’s words, were “not in the best of health.” It wasn’t an unexpected thing for them to be doing, as the two are known for being highly active in the community.
Suddenly, Breeze received a life-changing phone call from Captain Matt McConnell of the Connoquenessing Volunteer Fire Company.
“The assistant fire chief called me to make sure that Frank and I were out of the house,” Breeze said. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Bree, your house is on fire.’”
While on the phone with Breeze, McConnell promised her that rescuers would do their best to save the couple’s pets. However, it wasn’t to be. Their two dogs, named Annie and Jaxson, as well as a pet turtle, died in the blaze.
The house, on Connoquenessing School Road, was a burned-out shell after the fire and declared a total loss. Breeze said the fire was caused by a wood-burning stove in the home.
The couple — married for 13 years — has begun the long process of rebuilding their lives from scratch.
“My whole house is just complete devastation,” Breeze said. “There's not one salvageable thing in my home.”
The fire was another punch in the gut for Breeze, who has been battling an aggressive breast cancer for two and a half years. As a result of her struggle, Breeze has been an active part of the local charity event Riding For the Cure, an annual motorcycle ride which raises money to cover treatments for cancer patients.
“My chemo alone is almost $6,000 a month. It's paid for by insurance but it's still very, very, very expensive,” Breeze said. “We fight it every day. Most days we do fairly well, but some days are better than others.”
In the short-term, Frankie and Breeze were forced to stay at the Hampton Inn in Butler’s shopping district. They are now in the process of moving into a small one-bedroom apartment, which she described as a “tiny little postage stamp apartment.” Their circle of friends is speeding up the process of making the apartment into a home.
“All my friends have come forward with pots and pans and bed linens and clothing and all of those things,” Breeze said. “It’s now fully furnished.”
A family member turned to the internet to help the couple get their lives back on track. Breeze’s daughter, Brandi Rippey, started a fundraiser through the online platform GoFundMe on Friday, the day after the fire.
“They now are tasked with needing everything, all the things that we likely take for granted daily,” Brandi wrote. “They will need a home, everything to fill that home, clothes, shoes, plates, blankets. Look around you, they now have a need for the things that surround you.”
The fundraising target has been set at $25,000. As of Sunday, Dec. 3, the GoFundMe has raised $5,145 from 67 backers. The fundraiser is accessible at https://gofund.me/da014bfa.
Breeze and Frankie are also accepting donations of checks and money orders directly to them, which can be mailed to PO Box 194, Connoquenessing, PA, 16027.
Breeze is currently working at the B&E Mini-Mart on Evans City Road. The mini-mart is accepting monetary donations on behalf of the family.