A weekend fire in Saratoga Springs has left an organization that helps families in crisis without a home of its own. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, their focus is now finding a temporary place to offer services while working to rebuild.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- "We had a family in here several months ago and as the father stood there talking with us, he broke down."
John Kelly recalls the conversation vividly. Standing inside the Saratoga Center for the Family, a man whose own son was being treated for sexual abuse grew emotional.
"He said that when he was abused as a child, there wasn't a place like this for him to be brought to back then,” said Kelly, the center’s law enforcement coordinator. “He was so grateful because there was a place like this."
On a yearly basis, the center provides counseling and support for 500 adults and children who fall victim to crimes and sexual abuse, services that are temporarily on hold after a devastating fire this past weekend.
"You're hoping for the best and then you come in and see this,” said Kelly, while standing inside the charred basement. “It's disturbing and some of it's personal."
The fire broke out shortly before 10 p.m. Friday. By the time crews had it contained nearly three hours later, the center's basement lay completely in ruins.
"Our priority right now is to get our services back up and running in time to take care of our clients,” executive director Deb Tomaso said. “That's what we're focused on today."
While the building is not a total loss, Tomaso estimates rebuilding will take up to four months. Her hope is to move all 12 staff into a temporary space no later than Monday.
"It's critically important,” Tomaso said. “We are working with clients who are in distress and sometimes in crisis mode who very much depend on our services day in and day out."
The basement housed the child advocacy center, where victims of alleged crimes were interviewed in a kid-friendly setting. Staff says there's no question the space will offer that comfort again.
"We work very hard to make that a space that our kids feel comfortable in and very welcoming,” Tomaso said. “It will be that way again, I have no doubt."
"There's no doubt we'll be back on our feet because there's a need for it in Saratoga County," Kelly said.
Tomaso says they hope to have the center's email and phone lines restored by the end of the week.
She says they'll eventually need donations of children's toys and furniture when the space is rebuilt. For information on how to donate, visit http://www.saratogacff.org/.