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Local inventor wants to ‘save a lot of lives’

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It’s been 22 years since Bernice Taylor started a fireplace accessories company, and she’s got nothing to hide when she says she thought about leaving her job at the post office. It seems natural, after all, to drop out of one career when you start another.

That hasn’t happened, though. Taylor, 63, has been a busy woman — a business owner and a postal worker at the Castleton branch for 32 years — and she’s trying to up her status at her company, Ashes to Go, before leaving the post office.

Benita Harris-Ferrell, Taylor’s coworker, calls her a soldier and thought for sure Taylor would have stopped working at the post office by now.

“She was extremely focused and intense,” Harris-Ferrell said of Taylor when she started Ashes to Go in 1998. “It was her baby, and she was determined.”

Bernice Taylor

No one has standing to doubt Taylor’s determination. She started her company while helping take care of a family — one child of her own to go along with six stepchildren — and had a frustrating time searching for different companies that could do production, distribution, packing and everything else required. It’s easier now that there are more one-stop-shop companies to handle all of that.

Taylor almost gave up on the fireplace tray she invented until she heard about a house fire that was caused by discarded fireplace embers in Connecticut on Christmas morning in 2011. The fire killed three girls and their grandparents.

That was her motivation to create a tray that’s practical and improves safety.

Taylor’s fireplace tray weighs six pounds — it used to be 30 — and has a lid to seal ashes to prevent reignition. The tray is only two inches high and a little more than two feet wide. It retails starting at $120.

“I believe the tray can save a lot of lives,” she said.

Back in the invention stage, June Harrington, the Castleton branch manager, remembers a passionate Taylor walking around the post office with video clips and prototypes of the design to show co-workers what she was up to.

“I think it’s amazing that she came up with this idea,” Harrington said.

It’s good to be put a priority on fire safety no matter the circumstances, but Taylor believes it will be especially important during the winter season and with more people staying inside because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With many sectors of the economy closed or operating with limited capacity, it stands to reason those with a fireplace may use it more often in the winter months, and Taylor said it’s good to know her work could help make it a safer holiday season.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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