A small group has been making a big difference in the community for 60 years by providing funds for firefighting equipment not covered by other sources and by giving direct support to families who have lost their homes to fire.
That group is called Ashes.
Lisa Larson and her family recently lost everything in a house fire in Vaughn. No one was injured, but their home was a total loss. In the immediate aftermath, while the family was still reeling, Ashes stepped in and provided financial help. “It was a blessing…an unexpected blessing and very much appreciated,” she said.
Marguerite Bussard is a founding member of Ashes and has been president for 20 years. The group was incorporated under the name Lady of the Ashes Auxiliary in 1952 after the retired fire chief gave Bussard $10 and asked her to organize a ladies’ group.
The original group of 16 wives of Key Peninsula volunteer firefighters set about their mission of raising funds to provide firefighters with the tools they needed. They organized a successful rummage sale and were able to contribute $700 to the ambulance fund.
Bussard grew up in a family who had a strong commitment to community service. Her husband, Pete Bussard, was the battalion chief at the Longbranch fire station; her brother, Lawrence Curl, was a first aid chief when there was only one ambulance in the district; and her mother donated the land for Fire Station No. 49 in Longbranch.
“It was a big change when volunteers began receiving pay; they got $2 for each drill,” Bussard said. “They met every week on Tuesday night and I always had cookies and coffee for them.”
Bussard is proud the group is still active and contributing to the well-being of the community after 60 years. DeeDee Kerkes, vice president, and Peggy Ensor, fundraising chair, are just two of the hard-working members who keep the group going. Thanks to their efforts, Ashes has been able to contribute to everything from vehicle purchases to replacement blades for the Jaws of Life, a special smoke alarm for a deaf resident and a portable battery-operated oxygen tank for another.
“Whenever something comes up or we need something that’s not in the budget, I tell the guys to go ask Ashes if they can support it; that’s what they’re there for,” said Fire Chief Guy Allen.
Ashes extends an invitation to the community to join its monthly meetings at the Key Center Fire Station at 10:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of every month.
Ashes members are often seen selling homemade jams and pickles at local stores and events, but their main fundraising activity is the annual spaghetti dinner. If you missed the May 20 event, donations can be sent to: Lady of the Ashes Auxiliary c/o Key Peninsula Fire Department, 8911 Key Peninsula Hwy N, Lakebay, WA 98349.