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Wayland Strong, Rises From The Ashes

February 26, 2022

By Jasmine Willis

WAYLAND — A community shows an outpouring of love and support after a fire engulfed Main Street.

The Wayland American Legion held donations from the entire area for those who lost everything in the Feb.22 blaze. Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes offered her support and condolences on Feb. 24 after visiting with the legion and local officials.

“It’s very sad. We have all been down here for so many events. These older villages have such a phenomenal history. People in these communities have rebuilt over the years, and this history is part of them. Hopefully they will be able to rebuild. We need to get these people taken care of, and I hope they won’t have to relocate. We need to make sure these people have homes. When I saw the pictures of the fire bursting out of the roof it was very heartbreaking,” Byrnes said.

Melonie Coley, of Wayland spoke with WLEA NEWS at the legion about the kindness of everyone involved in helping the fire survivors. Coley wanted to credit Alexis Robinson who wanted to help after seeing the fire break out on Main Street. Robinson jumped into action collecting information to help the survivors.

“She started making contacts and coordinating some things. She is the one who got the thing rolling. We had donations come in that night at the fire hall for the families to use immediately. We brought the things over to the legion that were not taken right away. It all grew from there,” she said. “Alexis organized a call out to the community telling them what was happening. Alexis worked closely with those impacted by the fire. We worked with the American Red Cross to make sure we had all them. We worked with the school to make sure we were keeping contact with the families.”

A community clothing drive that has been hosted at Wayland-Cohocton for 12 years donated materials to the families. It had not happened for the last two years due to Covid-19. They had a surplus of clothes that could be given away to the fire survivors right away.

“Meanwhile people were bringing in stuff to be donated. The outpouring has been overwhelming and we literally could not keep up. It started on Tuesday and has been going on for days. We literally could no longer accept donations on Thursday, because the legion building was at full capacity.”

Coley said it was overwhelming for those impacted by the fire to come in on Thursday to select donations. She said the families were worried about taking too much, and not having enough for the others. This made everyone involved emotional to witness, since they had lost everything they had in this fire. Those impacted were very thankful to the love and support from the entire region.

The Wayland-Cohocton school has a fund available that helps with school supplies for those students who have lost everything in a crisis. On Monday the school will be prepared to reach those students impacted by the tragedy to help with supplies. A school van was used to transport donations to the families.

Everyone is looking to help long-term with the needs for these families and business owners impacted by the fire.

“The fire fighters were all amazing that day. People were running food and coffee to the fire fighters in the rain. Literally every store, deli, restaurant, bakery, and pizza shop was sending food over to the fire fighters who were out there all day. It got to a point where they had lots of extra food, and that went to the families who lost everything. Nothing was wasted that day. Everyone stepped up to help any way they could,” she said. “This is really what started the community outreach. Not any of the fire survivors asked for donations. They were all concerned about taking too much. They didn’t want to take something another fire survivor might need. Here they have lost everything, and they only cared about others in need.”

The Wayland United Methodist Church Rev. Dan Finch sent out on social media to request donations on behave of those impacted by the fire. He said churches have always been there to help those in need after a crisis. He wanted those who were looking to help to reach out to them. The other churches in the region have been looking to be beacons for those impacted by the tragedy.

Painful Pleasures Tattoos Owner, John Magee stood outside his store all night to help with whatever was needed. He announced on his social media that he is hoping to be up and running again when he gets another location. He had most of his equipment and designs survive the fire.

Simply Harmony had a tragic situation involving cash being stolen from the register and lock box the night of the fire. The family-owned business is crushed by the fire and robbery.

Main Moon Chinese restaurant has been destroyed as well as the family’s home above the restaurant.

Coley wanted to be clear this support and love does not just come from a couple of organizations, but literally the entire region has been coming together. The whole region jumped into action to help a small town in need. Help has come from Cohocton, Perkinsville, Wayland, Dansville, and Springwater to name a few.

“We all pulled kits together for the families at the legion. We put clothes, food, and toiletries together for them in boxes. We will store the rest of the supplies at Food Mart for when they need it again in a couple of weeks. The extra clothes will be stored at Cohocton Elementary School for the spring giveaway when they are needed again,” Coley said. “Nothing is being wasted. Everything donated is being given to the community in need. It is all staying local. Since we knew our community in general is also in need we opened it up to them on Friday. We had more than enough to help others. Those impacted by the fire were helped immediately.”

Robinson had to call for a stop in donations after getting such an overwhelming response. However, if anyone still wishes to donate they can always donate food, toiletries, and money. The idea is to help these survivors get back on their feet, and during this housing crisis every little bit helps. They request that if anyone knows of housing available in the area to contact the legion with details.

“Those who deserve the credit are the fire fighters,” Coley said. “They literally saved many lives that day.”

A crew came together on Friday night to transfer all the extra donations to the Cohocton Elementary School for future use in the spring. The idea is that those impacted will be able to shop for more donations before the new school year.

People from this tragedy will be taken care of for months after the outpouring of support. People have been sending cash, checks, and gift cards to help out with anything else they need.
Stores all over the area have helped with supplies, groceries, furniture, and more. Anyone still wanting to donate food, supplies, or money can contact Wayland Post Commander Kevin Mark.

A volunteer expressed that this is exactly what was needed, and team work makes the dream work in so many ways. This tragedy goes to show that Wayland-Cohocton Central and the entire community wants what is best for each other. There has been an outpouring of love, kindness, friendship, and helping others. The volunteer wished that this community support could happen all of the time, and not just in times of tragedy. They want to see more of this support moving ahead on normal days. Seeing all of this potential in the community is heartwarming. Many people came together and didn’t even think twice about it for this tragedy.

Mat McCarthy, Wayland Department of Public Works superintended and Charles Cagle, Wayland Code Enforcement officer met with Byrnes to talk about the aftermath of the fire. Cagle is the one on lead for what happens next. He said nothing happens until he assesses all the damages first. He talked about the fire starting in an apartment on 12 N. Main St. The fire quickly spread to the Chinese restaurant causing tons of damage to multiple businesses and apartments.

For the safety of everyone the buildings have been closed off by a metal fence that McCarthy had picked up out of Rochester. The idea was that something more secure was needed for safety protocols.
The Wayland Area Historical Society had posted many old photos of Main Street throughout the years. The street got its rustic brick form in 1893. Before that is had all been made of wood, but tragically burned down after fires broke out. The idea was that the brick buildings were safer and more secure from the flames.

Cagle has not allowed anyone inside at this time, but the business owners to salvage whatever they could from the fire. He will wait to talk to all those in this investigation to go forward with any decisions at this time.

Byrnes also sat with Wayland Supervisor Carol Mykel to talk about the tragedy. Mykel said it is way too early to make any decisions yet. The insurance company needs to take a look at all the damages too.

Byrnes said she is really impressed to see the outpouring of support from those who donated and how fast the fire fighters worked together to save Main Street.

Byrnes added she had to visit the community to see what had been lost in this tragedy. She had no idea how many families had been impacted, and some lost even their business.

“I wanted to come down to see the needs of the community. I was sad to hear that people lost their homes and businesses. I am impressed with how the whole community circled the wagon and really came together for one another. You see through this tragedy that people really do care about each other,” she said.

The students, community, local officials, churches, grocery stories, restaurants, and organizations have all shown what it means to by Wayland Strong.

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