Five months after its building was destroyed by fire, the Saratoga Center for the Family is back in its old home. YNN's Matt Hunter has more on why that's welcome news to the families the group serves.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – "I was the last person to leave the building that night," said John Kelly, the longtime law enforcement coordinator at the Saratoga Center for the Family.
"9:45 at night, I remember it very vividly,” said Deb Tomaso, the organization’s executive director. “I was hoping it really wasn't that kind of a call."
"You kind of drum up in your mind what it's going to look like when you get there and it wasn't what I expected," said Kelly, who raced back to the building on Ballston Avenue.
For an organization that prides itself on providing a warm and comforting space for child victims of sexual abuse, the May 3 fire at the Saratoga Center for the Family was devastating to the loyal staff.
"It's the personal things you had in your office and the people that come through these doors here and that's the stuff that really emotionally kind of hits you in the face when you see it," Kelly said.
Within a week, operations were temporarily moved to the New England Presbyterian Church, where the organization was founded in 1974.
"When I talked to [Reverend] Jay Ekman it was as if ‘Why didn't you call me? Of course you're coming back home, no questions asked!’ and we were there," Tomaso said Friday.
Five months later Tomaso and her 11 employees are finally back at their old but newly repaired home, already providing services which also include mental health counseling and abuse prevention.
"It's warm, it's comforting, it's not sterile, it feels comfortable for them, it feels welcoming to them,” Tomaso said. “It just works, it works well for everybody."
As staff members assembled furniture and reorganized their offices Friday, it was clear the work isn't done yet, but it's a far cry from where they found themselves just a few months ago.
"It's all the way on the other end of the spectrum,” Kelly said. “From something that's so bad that's turned out so good."
"While I was crying that night at 9:45 p.m., if we're crying today, it's tears of happiness and joy,” Tomaso said. “We're glad to be home."