Community comes together to "make a difference" for Harnish family

“God knew what he was doing.”

On May 9, Ken Harnish sustained life-threatening injuries as he was trimming trees; Benjamin Eidemiller was among the firefighters who responded to the scene, and Alyssa Van Lenten was with Kelly -- Ken’s daughter -- at a bonfire party at the time of the accident. This confluence proves to Van Lenten that God was involved, and inspired her and Eidemiller --both rising L-S seniors -- to plan a spaghetti supper, bake sale, and silent auction to help defray medical expenses for the Harnish family.

“Sometimes you see other people struggling or hurting and you come up with a great idea to help them, but rarely do you actually follow through with the plan,” Van Lenten explains. “The whole event was about serving the Harnishes, serving the community, and most importantly serving the Lord. The benefit showed me that it is possible to make a difference, even as a teenager.”

Some 483 people came to the event, which was held at Refton Brethren in Christ church. Van Lenten says they planned for about 450, so the extra people necessitated an emergency trip to get extra napkins and spaghetti sauce. Although worried about running out of food or space, ultimately they had enough of both, which she calls “really neat.” In total, the event raised approximately $12,000 to support the Harnish family.
A picture of the kitchen before the event, dubbed by one volunteer as the "calm
before the storm." Van Lenten says they were all so busy, she forgot to take any
other photos.
Photo Credit: Sophia Buscay
The event was as much a community gathering as a dinner; many people came for the fellowship more so than the food.

“A lot of people were saying there were people they hadn't seen in years, so it was fun to be around that kind of atmosphere,” Van Lenten says. “Everyone was very generous.”

Pulling off such an event requires an army of volunteers and supporters, many of which were students of Lampeter-Strasburg High School. Van Lenten tallies a total of about 15 L-S students involved in tasks including the event’s coordination (her and Eidemiller), cooking the meal, serving the meal, wrapping silverware, and helping wash dishes.

Most important, Van Lenten says, was what the event meant to the Harnish family. She recalls Jodi Harnish (Ken’s wife) tearing up while dropping off some items the night before.

“Obviously, this is so huge for them. I think the most important thing for Ken, though, is that his relationship with the community has not changed,” Van Lenten says. “People want to help him because of the person he … is.”

Because not all silent auction items have been picked up yet, a total figure of what the event raised cannot yet be released, but Van Lenten says the community’s generosity exceeded her and Eidemiller’s expectation.

The only problem into which the crew ran the night of the event was when the kitchen staff “tripped the breaker” in the kitchen, causing one table to get cold meatballs. Other than that, the event was an unbridled success.

Van Lenten thanks her friends who helped serve throughout the event, and the community for its support. And although she acknowledges the success of the event, she is not sure another similar one is in the near future.

“As much fun as it was to organize this whole thing, I don't see another benefit night in my near future. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of work, but I think it's time to find some smaller ways to serve the community!”

For her part, Kelly Harnish, also a senior at L-S, says her family feels overwhelmed by the community's support.

"It's very humbling. It seems like everyone we know, plus many we don't, has helped us in some way. I always knew our community was close, but to feel the overwhelming support for our family is unbelievable," she says. "We don't have enough words to express our gratitude."

--Benjamin Pontz, Editor-In-Chief

Editor's Note: The article was updated on July 28 to add the approximate proceeds from the event, which became available after initial publication. BP

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