COLLEGEVILLE — When Zenon Janicki read about the massive fire at Ashwood Apartments last Thursday night, he knew it was time to open up his trailer for donations.

“When I saw all the kids that were involved in it I wanted to start collecting right away. I believe it was over 30 kids that were involved. I saw the need and I reached out to my contact at the Perkiomen Township Fire Company and they were 100 percent behind it,” Janicki said. “At 1 o’clock this morning I put this together and now the trailer is completely filled. People really came together.”

Families posted their needs on Facebook, and people responded accordingly,  Janicki noted.

“They mostly wanted baby clothes, bedsheets, younger kids' clothing, and that’s what was collected,” he said. “The community has come through once again. Instead of being like the food pantry drive we did, the pieces had to come together. It’s unbelievable the support that the community has come through with in these times. It’s just been astronomical. There’s so much negativity in the world right now but a tragedy like this happens and it brings the community together. With the coronavirus maybe people are laid off from their jobs and can’t catch a break. If we can just come together as we have been as a community we can bring some smiles to some people’s faces.”

Last spring, like many businesses, Janicki was feeling the pinch from the pandemic with his Janicki Party Planning. The business, billed as “your one-stop-shop for all your party needs,” would normally have been booking rental tents, tables and chairs for spring events and graduation parties, but none of that was happening.

With no reservations to plan for, owner Janicki began thinking of ways he could help struggling restaurants and keep the food stocked at the Daily Bread Community Food Pantry in Collegeville at the same time by offering to park his trailer in the restaurant lots. Donations were solicited as patrons were offered special deals at the respective restaurants.

“Over 16,000 pounds of canned goods were collected,” Janicki recalled.

Friday was the first of a two-day collection at the trailer, stationed at Perkiomen Fire Company, 485 Gravel Pike, Collegeville.

Janicki planned to unload the trailer and bring it back to the firehouse for Saturday’s collection, noon to 6 p.m.

“It’s a non-contact drive, so there’s nobody there collecting. They can just come at will and don’t have to worry about being in contact with anybody,” he said.

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