The father of seven children who perished in a fire that gutted the family farmhouse said neighbors and friends are helping to raze the burned home so a new one can be built, adding that the work has helped "take care of some of the pain."
Ted Clouse, the children's father, told The Associated Press on Friday that neighbors who have a construction business were staking out the site for a planned two-story house just a couple hundred feet from the charred skeleton of his current one.
He said he has been touched by the outpouring of support and offers of help in the aftermath of the tragic blaze late Tuesday night in Loysville.
"It helps take care of some of the pain," he said in a telephone interview.
Neighbors and friends in the heavily Amish and Mennonite area have been helping out with the daily chores on the Clouse's dairy farm, providing food and generally looking after the parents and their 3-year-old daughter _ the only one of their eight children to escape the burning house.
"They're helping with everything," he said.
Asked how his wife, Janelle, was bearing up, he replied, "It's rough."
A funeral for his six daughters and one son _ Christina, 11; Isabele, 9; Brady, 7; Hannah, 6; Heidi, 4; Maranda, 2; and Samantha, 7 months _ will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Perry Mennonite Reception Center in Elliottsburg, said funeral director James Nickel. The Rev. Adam Williams will officiate.
A closed-casket visitation will be held at the reception center from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday and from 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday. Burial will be at the cemetery of the Church of the Living Christ, where the Clouse family attends in Loysville.
Meanwhile, offers of help were pouring in at the Penn State Cooperative Extension for Perry and Cumberland counties in New Bloomfield, said director David L. Swartz.
A local casket maker provided caskets for the victims, and a Pennsylvania supermarket chain and meat company agreed to donate food for a meal after the funeral.
"The level of personal and corporate charity is just unbelievable," Swartz said.
There were postings on Facebook on Friday for at least two benefit events for the Clouse family _ a donation center at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Loysville on Saturday and a March 27 concert featuring 20 bands at The Drinkin' Bone bar-restaurant in Wormleysburg, near Harrisburg.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey sharply criticized plans by the Westboro Baptist Church's to demonstrate at the funeral.
The Topeka, Kan.-based church has stirred outrage by picketing soldiers' funerals and contending that God is punishing the military for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit against the group filed by the father of slain Marine from York, Pa., and ruled that the First Amendment protects speech about public issues even when it is harmful.
The justices "may say that they can continue to preach hate, but that doesn't mean we should tolerate their actions in Pennsylvania," Casey said. "If this protest goes forward, I hope that the people of Perry County and the midstate will come out to support the family."