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October 20, 2014

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Amish to build garage for pair who returned girls

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Watertown Daily Times, Jason Hunter / AP

In this Aug. 15, 2014, file photo, an Amish family rides along Route 812 in Heuvelton, N.Y., near the command center of the investigation into the abduction and return of two young Amish girls at the Heuvelton Volunteer Fire Department. Members of an extended Amish family plan to hold a “garage raising” for the couple who returned the two kidnapped Amish girls to their home, according to the the Watertown Daily Times.

RICHVILLE, N.Y. — The Amish are famous for their barn raisings, when an entire community turns out to help a neighbor.

In northern New York, members of an extended Amish family plan to hold a "garage raising" for the couple who returned two kidnapped Amish girls to their home.

Jeffrey and Pamela Stinson tell the Watertown Daily Times that the garage at their home in St. Lawrence County recently burned down while they were on vacation in Maine. The fire was believed to have been started by a stray cat knocking over a battery jumpstart box inside.

Earlier this month, the Stinsons were shocked when two Amish girls knocked on the front door of their home in Richville, about 15 miles from where police say the girls, ages 7 and 12, were abducted while tending to their family's roadside farm stand in Oswegatchie, on the Canadian border.

The Stinsons said the girls were cold, wet and so hungry that they quickly consumed a watermelon Jeffrey had just picked from the family's garden. The girls then asked to be driven to their home. After a brief discussion with his wife on how to proceed, Stinson decided it was best to take them home rather than call police.

"We never gave it any thought about implications or dangers," he said. "We knew they had to get home."

Two days after the girls were abducted on Aug. 13, police arrested a local couple and charged them with kidnapping. Police said Nicole Vaisey, 25, and Stephen Howells Jr., 39, of nearby Hermon, used a dog to lure the girls into the couple's car.

The girls, who authorities say were sexually abused, were released a day after being abducted when Vaisey and Howells were apparently spooked by an intense police investigation and media coverage, authorities said. The Associated Press isn't naming the Amish family members because it generally doesn't identify victims of sexual abuse.

The family plans to build the Stinsons a new garage later this week. The victims, their 11 siblings, parents, grandparents and other relatives are expected to be on hand, Stinson said.

The girls' father told Stinson that he would be offended if he could not help rebuild the garage.

"They won't take no for an answer," he said.

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