Pa. business donates $100K to VFD in memory of owners' son
The money will go toward a new fire engine for the Penn Township Volunteer Fire Company
By Maddie Seiler
CARLISLE, Pa. — Brandon Edward Skiles is remembered as someone who was kind, gentle, loving, compassionate and caring, an avid lover of the outdoors who "would drop anything to help anyone and give the shirt off his back to help someone who needed it," in the words of his sister, Jesica Kuhn.
This memory of him prompts Skiles Excavating, a company in Newville, to give to the community through the Brandon E. Skiles Memorial Fund. On Thursday evening, members of Brandon's family presented a donation of $100,000 to Penn Township Volunteer Fire Company in his honor.
At the event, Kuhn said her brother was a "hard, dedicated worker for Skiles Excavating," and a "very important part of our family" who also suffered from addiction. Brandon died of a drug overdose on Dec. 1, 2018, at age 33.
"Our lives changed forever on this day four years ago when we lost him," she said. "Addiction can happen to any family and to great people. We are here today as a testament to that fact. It is often not understood as a disease ... and it can be too late when that realization is made. If sheer will is all that was needed to beat this affliction, Brandon would surely be here."
Hoping to raise awareness of the disease, Skiles Excavating made the donation on what Kuhn referred to as his "angel-versary" in an effort to prevent future families from suffering a similar loss.
"This event is to memorialize the life of Brandon Skiles which was the request of Jim Skiles (Brandon's father and the owner of Skiles Excavating), to bring awareness to the fact that families do lose family members to addiction," said Bob Bassett, a member of the fire company who also serves on the department's fundraising committee. "His donation assists us in providing equipment that could intervene in the lives of people that suffer from drug and alcohol addiction."
The funds will go toward the purchase of a new fire engine, something Bassett said costs about $800,000.
"We have an engine that will be reaching 20 years old and it's an engine that was pretty much set up for rural firefighting," he said. "With the addition of six new warehouses in our first due area, million square foot buildings add a different dimension to firefighting and we needed pieces of equipment that would meet that challenge of those warehouses."
The engine is expected to arrive at the station in late summer or early fall next year.
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Skiles Excavating's donation serves as a "big part" of reaching the fundraising goal for the equipment, Basset said.
"To our fire department, it represents the largest donation that we've received to date," he said.
Basset said the company initially approached several of the local warehouses for donations toward the new engine.
"The warehouses really didn't have the interest in assisting us, so we looked towards the local businesses," he said. " Skiles Excavating is within our township and we solicited them for a donation to the engine which led us to the owner ... and from there, the discussions took place as to what philanthropic things that he has done in the past and he suggested the number of $100,000 in memory of his son, Brandon Skiles."
Lisa Skiles, Brandon's mother, said Skiles Excavating chose to donate to the department because it asked.
"When they asked, because we do give, we considered it right away, but then when we found out what the need was, that's when we offered more," she said.
The donation fits right in with Brandon's giving nature, Lisa said, and it helps to raise awareness of addiction and the stigma surrounding it.
"It's just a way for us to pay it forward to the community but honor him at the same time," she said.
Along with the donation Thursday night, local officials from Shippensburg Area EMS and the Cumberland-Perry Drug & Alcohol Commission spoke about the impact of addiction in the community.
Cumberland County saw 52 drug-related deaths and 643 overdose-related calls in the county in 2018, which was the most recent year with available data on the county's website.
Penn Township Volunteer Fire Company is continuing to accept donations for the fire engine, and Bassett said donations can be made by contacting any of the fire company's members.
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