First hand experience leads to Tara's TotesIt was winter, a more common time for house fires, but Tara Tuchel never expected it could happen to her. At the time the 1991 Hudson High School graduate was teaching in the Hudson School District.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
It was winter, a more common time for house fires, but Tara Tuchel never expected it could happen to her. At the time the 1991 Hudson High School graduate was teaching in the Hudson School District.
“On Jan. 18, 2011, I received a phone call informing me that my house was on fire. I rushed home to see firefighters and hoses streaming into my house. Thankfully, a police officer had noticed the smoke coming out of a bedroom window and the fire department was able to respond within minutes. This quick response by the Hudson Fire Department saved my home from burning to the ground,” states Tuchel on her website.
The entire upper level of Tuchel’s home had extensive smoke and soot damage. It was quickly apparent the family would be displaced for many months.
It was this during this time that Tuchel and her daughter began to think about how they could help others who found themselves in the same situation.
“I was inspired to “give back” when my family was shown an unbelievable outpouring of support from family, friends and the community in the days, weeks and months after my house fire,” said Tuchel. “Having been through such a devastating event, my daughter and I wanted to organize something that could have an impact and help us wrap our arms around people who also experience a house fire.”
“In the early weeks after the fire, when the kids and I were at the hotel we kept finding ourselves saying things like “Oh, we don’t have a pony tail holder…we don’t have a nail clipper…and the list goes on and on. We decided right then and there that we would put together some sort of care package for people who experience a house fire (once things settled down and we were back in our house),” said Tuchel. “When we were close to moving home, our planning for the totes got underway. To make sure I wasn’t reinventing the wheel, I googled “totes after a fire” and found a woman in Ohio named Tammy. She had been through a house fire five months before me and had started up Tammy’s Totes. She and I e-mailed and then spoke on the phone and decided we would have “sister” organizations. We still keep in touch and share ideas.”
Tuchel is in the process of making Totes available to all of the area fire departments. The first department she delivered one to was the Town of St. Joseph. The department called Tuchel shortly after her presentation to say they wanted to donate to the cause. This weekend St. Joseph Fire Department Chief Ron Burton presented Tuchel with a $100 check.
“We put out the fires and go home and clean up the trucks,” said Burton. “The fire victim has such a difference experience from what we have. We realized there is a real need for something like Tara’s Totes, which is why we decided to donate to the cause. I hope we don’t need to use the one we have.”
In the meantime, Tuchel delivered her first tote this past weekend to a individual in Boardman whose home had burned.
“I was on my way to deliver a tote to the New Richmond Fire Department,” said Tuchel. “Since I had one with me I stopped and gave it directly to the homeowner. He put in use in minutes.” She has been back to deliver donated pillows and clothes as well.
“What I found out is, that it is amazing that a tub of that stuff can bring tears to a person’s eyes,” said Tuchel.
Every once and a while Tuchel will open something in her home and the smell of smoke brings her right back to that day in January.
“Firefighters not only save lives but save houses too,” said Tuchel. “I so appreciate that. In an instant you realize what is important.”
“I called all the area fire departments to describe the concept and the St. Joe was the first one to call back,” said Tuchel.
Approximately $100 will fill a tote with the essentials.
The idea of Tara’s Totes is spreading, with Girl Scout troops in Hudson making them as service projects. (See additional photos in the Community Section.)
In Woodbury, Tara’s Totes has become the third grade Compassion Project. The assembled totes will be delivered to the Woodbury Fire Department and four other area departments. Tuchel recently received word that same thing is taking place in Eau Claire as well.
Tuchel now works for the Stillwater School District.
If you would like to donate items or sponsor a tote you can contact Tuchel through her website www.tarastotes.weebly.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (715) 222-7042.
You may also donate online at www.give-forward.com/tarastotes.
What is in Tara’s Totes?
Plastic tote/bin, men & women’s deodorant, travel toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo & conditioner, comb, brush, ponytail holders, men’s & women’s razors, bar of soap, hairspray, bath towels, washcloths, dental floss, sandwich bags, extra-large tote size bags, trash bags, plastic utensils, paper plates, paper bowls, roll of quarters, first-aid kit, tampons/pads, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, small contact solution, lip balm, hand soap, lotion, plastic cups, baby wipes, flashlight, tissues, q-tips, ibuprofen, dish soap, laundry detergent, fabric softener sheets, nail clipper, wipes, hand sanitizer, medium size manila envelopes to store receipts, notebook and pens.