AMHERST – The destruction is almost total.
“We are starting over,” said Erin Perry, executive director of the non-profit Cumberland Early Intervention Program
The office of CEIP was in the building flush with Victoria Arms, the apartment building – also home to now-gone Dooley’s – destroyed by this week’s Victoria Street fire. When the old brick wall towering beside their offices was pulled down as part of the firefighting effort, part of it dropped on their roof, crushing the offices below.
“We’ve been in that location for eight years now,” said Perry. But the office housed materials – learning aids, adaptive toys and all paper records – accumulated over the organization’s 22-year history.
“Things you can’t go out and purchase,” said the executive director.
Perry found out about the damage via voice mail. She was out at the beach. The president of the charity’s board, Bev Cooke was closer to the action.
“I was following (developments),” said Cooke. She was in the Red Cross’s on-scene HQ, acting in her role as a Red Cross disaster management team leader.
Cooke didn’t see the actual collapse, although a CEIP colleague did.
The women produced photos of the interior of the office space. They were given access by the fire department. The images were stark. Insulation drooped over a work station from the seams of a crushed ceiling. Debris littered the floor. In one case, an office, it was hard to even tell what was being observed.
“It hasn’t been assessed by the insurance company,” said Perry.
The executive director said the work resources she’s left with are her keys, phone, notepad and pen. They’ve put together one work bag (so far) an employee can use on a home visit.
One piece of good fortune: she always kept a copy of their computer system’s hard drive in her work bag, updated weekly. Organizational documents were saved. But paper records from client visits are lost in filing cabinets buried beneath the destruction
Getting up and running again will be a task.
“Bear with us, support us,” said Cooke.
Families waiting for services were already faced with a daunting delay. That delay will now be extended by a couple of months or more.
“We don’t think it’s acceptable,” said Perry. The board and staff are trying to resolve the issue.
The executive director is working from home right now. A temporary location downtown, in the building housing Tantramar radio, should be up and running in a month’s time. They hope to return to their demolished site in a year.
The president and executive director hope the community will be able to help CEIP financially while they get back on their feet. Cheques made out to Cumberland Early Intervention Program can be mailed to PO Box 997, Amherst, B4H 4E1. Messages from clients or donors can be left at 667-8244. Voice mail is checked daily.