Beloved Wheeling Company Receives Outpouring of Community Support Following Fire

While Ziegenfelder’s success lies primarily in icy treats, their warm hearts are clearly another major ingredient in their famous recipe. It’s said that “what goes around, comes around,” and it seems that the Zieggy tribe’s culture of kindness is coming full circle for them this week.

The Ziegenfelder company suffered a tragic fire at their corporate offices on 18th Street on Thursday, Jan. 31. Fortunately, all employees were able to evacuate the facility safely. The cause of the fire remains under investigation at this time, but preliminary reports show it appears to be accidental. Investigators believe the fire started from a heating device being used to unthaw metal piping.

The company, manufacturers of Budget Saver Twin Pops and other chilled confections, is owned and operated by local resident Lisa Allen and her family, including her husband Barry Allen. Ziegenfelder is a much-loved and well-respected fixture in their East Wheeling neighborhood. And, as is often the case when misfortune strikes a cherished neighbor, those who live and work in the vicinity are rallying around the Ziegenfelder Co. in support.

“Our hearts are heavy for the entire Ziegenfelder family. Lisa, Barry and the entire Zieggy tribe have always supported our mission,” says Crystal Bauer, RN, director of Project HOPE, Wheeling’s street medicine team. “They frequently employ our population, providing them with a second and even third chance to re-enter society through employment. They are a corporate sponsor for our Winter Walk fundraiser. We anxiously await their rebuild and wish them continued success in our community. Our Project HOPE team is as invested in them as they are in the Wheeling community.”

Temple Shalom in Woodsdale, where Lisa and her family worship, is organizing a collection to support the factory’s workers during the anticipated rebuilding period. Rabbi Joshua Lief released this statement: “Our faith teaches us to play an active role as partners with the Divine in repairing our world. As we give thanks for our many blessings, this is a chance for us to be a blessing unto others. Temple Shalom will be taking up a collection for the welfare of the factory workers. If you would like to join us by donating to this cause, please contact the Temple Office to let us know.”

Rabbi Lief also shared that his congregation would be honored if other local churches would consider making his request part of their collection appeal in the coming weeks. He says, “Ziegenfelder has a long-standing reputation of hiring some of the neediest people in our community and offering countless individuals second chances to repair their lives.”

The House of Hagar Catholic Worker on 14th Street also made an emotional social media post in support of the company. “We are mourning with you! You are such a beloved part of our community. The Ziegenfelder tribe has helped so many rise again with your second chance program for those with past trials. We are standing with you, anxiously awaiting Ziegenfelder’s to rise again … and for a new Popsicle named “The Phoenix”!  The House of Hagar loves you and is holding you in our hearts.”

(Photo courtesy of Wheeling Professional Firefighters Local 12)

Renee Parrish, an employee of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, created a #ZiegenfelderStrong Facebook page even before the blaze was extinguished. She wanted to unite Orrick employees, many of whom have family members employed by Ziegenfelder, and others who are interested in supporting the company as it rebuilds.

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Renee says that she felt compelled to “get something out there” to see if she can get folks involved in helping during the rebuilding process. “My sister Cheryl has worked there for several years. I’ve come to know Barry and Lisa through Cheryl, and I see how much they do for the community and their employees. They are always paying it forward, and I feel like we as a community can certainly help them out in their time of need,” says Renee. “I’m hoping the #ZiegenfelderStrong page can be a place where people can come up with ideas to help them out. I imagine once they get everything assessed, they will have a better idea of what they need help with. Perhaps a ‘Day of Caring’-type event where we can help with clean up, painting, etc.”

The Allens and the Zieggy tribe are incredibly grateful for the community’s support. “We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community. We’ve received countless emails and texts in the 24 hours after the fire, and we appreciate every message we’ve received. Along with well wishes, we’re so grateful for the donations offered to us during this difficult time. Companies have donated cleaning supplies, food, vehicles and assistance to our affected employees. The fire destroyed a significant part of our operation; however, we feel confident we will recover,” Lisa Allen said in a statement.

While showing a photo of a buffet of hot food and boxes of pizza and noting that the Zieggy tribe “was eating well today,” Ziegenfelder also gave a shout out Friday on Facebook to the following:

• Lowe’s for donating cleaning supplies and other materials
• Wheeling Volkswagen for supplying extra vehicles to their crews
• United Way for providing assistance to members of their tribe who need it
• Cabela’s for donating warm wool socks for the tribe working in the cold conditions
• Jackson Hewitt for providing free tax services to some employees

In addition, Lisa expressed her gratitude for the first responders who battled the blaze for hours in bitterly cold weather conditions. “Our heartfelt thanks goes to the heroic efforts of our local firefighters,” she said, expressing her thanks that all employees were safely evacuated without injury.

Wheeling Professional Firefighters Local 12 as well as several other local fire departments responded to the three-alarm blaze. Becky Whiteman Carroll and employees of Toriseva Law share Lisa’s gratitude for the bravery of the firefighters. To show that appreciation, they are organizing a Support Your Local Firefighters drive.

“It’s just to give them some nice tokens of our appreciation,” says Janine Varner of Toriseva Law. “Not just now, but throughout the year.”

Residents are asked to drop off a treat, a meal or perhaps a gift card to a fire station in their neighborhood.

To donate to Temple Shalom’s collection, send a check to the Temple at 23 Bethany Pike, Wheeling, WV 26003 or contact Rabbi Lief at 304-233-4870.

A lifelong Wheeling resident, Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School and the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she works for an international law firm; by night, (and often on her lunch breaks and weekends) she enjoys moonlighting as a part-time writer. Please note that the views expressed in her writing are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, including her full-time employer. Through her writing, Ellen aims to enlighten others on causes close to her heart, particularly addiction, recovery and equal rights. She and her husband Doug reside in Warwood with their clowder of rescued cats, each of whom is a direct consequence of his job as the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their family includes four adult children, their spouses and several grandkids.