By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP —
Phil Steele has spent much of his life helping others; now he needs help himself.
For decades, Steele’s name has been synonymous with the Transfer Volunteer Fire Department, where he’s been chief for 20 years.
He’s also worked as a medic and is now a health and fitness technician for UPMC Horizon.
He also serves as a Pymatuning Township supervisor and is an otherwise active member of the community.
Since September, Steele, 52, has also battled kidney problems.
He is on dialysis and needs a transplant.
He spent a busy Thursday morning running fire department errands before and after he drove to Hermitage for dialysis, something he must do three times a week to stay alive.
“Right now I’m having more good days than bad,” he said.
He ultimately needs a kidney transplant and has recently completed the steps to get on the transplant list.
Steele’s friends and family, along with scores of others in the community, are coming together to help with the costs associated with a transplant.
“He’s helped so many people that we thought it was time to help him,” Tanya Jackson said.
She and her husband Ron, who’s also a longtime firefighter, have known Steele for three decades.
Ron Jackson’s the safety officer for West Salem’s department, and much like fire departments provide “mutual aid” during large fires, the community’s coming together to help Steele.
“He’s been a real big asset to the community,” Ron Jackson said.
“He can use all of the support he can get right now,” Tanya Jackson said.
“I can’t say enough about him. He’s a sweetheart.”
The Jacksons and other friends and fellow firefighters have banded together to organize a benefit spaghetti dinner that’s scheduled for Sunday at Reynolds High School.
Also planned that day is a Chinese auction and 50-50 raffle, with proceeds going to help Steele’s medical costs.
An account for Steele is set up at First National Bank in the Reynolds plaza, Terri Cwyner, Steele’s cousin and one of his fundraisers, said.
“He was always there for me. I just wanted to give something back,” she said.
“A big focus for him is helping other people. I just felt it was something we wanted to do to help him.”
Steele said he appreciates the support.
“I’m grateful to my cousin and Ron and Tanya,” he said.
His family and friends, including wife Cheryl, daughter Danielle and son Nicholas, have “worked hard” to support him, he said.
Danielle Steele has set up a page for her father’s medical bills at gofundme.com that’s raised $2,120 thus far.
“I have a great family,” he said.
He also appreciates the prayers he’s been mentioned in across the region, he said.
“I believe in the power of prayer,” he said.
“I think that makes a huge difference.”
The fundraiser for Phil Steele runs from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Reynolds High School.