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Mexico earthquake hits home for Hollabaugh Brothers in Adams County

Written by Dustin B. Levy/The Hanover Evening Sun | Oct 5, 2017 11:05 AM
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After an earthquake hit Mexico on Sept. 19, Elizabeth Barona spent two days anxiously trying to get in contact with family members living there. "I was very scared, and I really thought that -- I don't know, afraid they weren't going to be there anymore," said Barona, who works in the Hollabaugh Bros. bakery. Barona eventually made contact with an aunt in Mexico City, who informed her that her parents and brother were OK, but their home in Joquicingo, where Barona grew up, was one of 150 buildings that would need to be torn down. (Photo: Dan Rainville, The Evening Sun)

Several Hollabaugh Bros. workers, whose families live in Mexico, were reeling from the deadly earthquake on Sept. 19, so their employers pledged to help.

(Gettysburg) -- One morning, Elizabeth Barona woke up feeling sick before work at Hollabaugh Bros., so she called her mother in Mexico to explain her symptoms.

Ellie Vranich, the assistant retail manager at the family fruit farm and market in Biglerville, could relate.

"It's just like anybody," Vranich said. "You want to call your parents when you need them."

Barona was unable to do that for two horrifying days after the deadly Mexican earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 273 people in Mexico City and surrounding areas on Sept. 19. The 7.1-magnitude earthquake damaged homes, schools, churches and other structures, displacing more than 12,000 people who have since spent at least one night in a shelter.

"I was very scared, and I really thought that -- I don't know, afraid they weren't going to be there anymore," said Barona, who works in the Hollabaugh Bros. bakery.

Hollabaugh Bros. announced they will collect donations for employees' family members affected by the earthquake at the cash registers in their retail store for the next couple weeks. Vranich estimated they have at least five or six employees whose families were in some way affected by the disaster.

Barona did not know what to do while waiting to hear word from her parents, brother and other relatives, saying she must have spent it crying. She "wanted to run down there."

Barona eventually made contact with an aunt in Mexico City, who informed Barona that her parents and brother were OK, but their home, where Barona grew up, was one of 150 damaged in Barona's hometown of Joquicingo and would have to be torn down.

The earthquake damaged the walls inside Barona's parents' house, making it uninhabitable. While they are figuring out their future, they are living in a small shed behind their home with a few items they could salvage. They are living off fruits and vegetables they harvested.

"It was their dream to build that house," Vranich said. "They built it together with hard earned money, and to see it just have to be torn right back down in such a quick, fast event is just heartbreaking."

Barona is sending money back home to help her family survive, and, by collecting funds from caring customers, Hollabaugh Bros. is providing a major assist. They are pledging to divvy up the donations to directly benefits their workers' families. 

"Our employees are like our family here, and when they hurt, we hurt, too," Vranich said.

Oscar Madeos, a farm worker at Hollabaugh Bros. since 2002, also hails from Joquicingo. His grandparents, uncles and cousins live there.

"They are my people," Madeos said. "That's my town. Part of me is there."

As a result, the news of the earthquake's consequences devastated Madeos. He found it hard to find the words to express his mix of feelings.

Madeos wished he could go down and help, but is thankful he didn't have to witness the desolation. However, seeing the Mexican people come together to help each other out made him proud.

"I thought I was a strong man, but when I see this, (compared) to them, I am not," he said.

Deciding to collect money to help employees' families felt like the right thing to do, Vranich said. 

"It's easy to forget that it happened," Vranich said. "Now it's over ... There are still homeless people. There are still schools that won't be open for who knows how long. There are churches, and there are people whose lives will be permanently affected by this."

Hearing about this from her employer reaffirmed Barona's faith in a higher power. 

"God is always good," she said. "He wasn't going to leave us or leave my parents alone."

Madeos remarked that he's aware the Mexican earthquake is only one of many natural disasters worthy of attention right now. He commiserates with people in similar situations because of the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

"I am thankful that I am good, and I can't ask for more," he said. "I have work. I have my family. I have health. You can't ask for more."

To donate

Visit the Hollabaugh Bros. market on 545 Carlisle Road in Biglervile or send a check to that address with a label of "Earthquake Help."

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and The Hanover Evening Sun.

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