Early intervention hardly skipped a beat after downtown fire
© Darrell Cole – Amherst News
Early interventionist Andrea Meekins (left) and Erin Perry of the Cumberland Early Intervention Program look over a file in the organization’s office in the former National Specialty building. After the former office was destroyed by last August’s downtown fire, the program moved to its present quarters in October.
AMHERST – It would be easy to understand why the past year has been a huge challenge for the Cumberland Early Intervention Program.
A year ago, Erin Perry watched helplessly as the west wall of the Windsor Block came crashing down on the CEIP offices beginning several months of transition that only now is settling down.
“We only cancelled visits on one day, the day after. The next day we were back offering services to our client families,” Perry said. “We didn’t have a space but we didn’t let that stop us. We just had to be creative.”
CEIP is a family-centred organization that serves children with special needs and their families in their homes and communities. Through education, advocacy and partnerships it also promotes potential and builds a positive view of the future.
For several weeks staff used Perry’s home as their meeting place until they were able to relocate into what they thought at the time would be temporary quarters in the former National Specialty building on the corner of Acadia and Victoria Street.
“I knew we would get to where we are today, but I knew it was going to be a long, challenging process,” Perry said. “I know the passion of myself, the staff and the board and we wanted to recreate what we had. That first day, when I was first looking at it, I was wondering where do we start?”
When their former landlord opted to demolish the building instead of rebuilding, the move became permanent and Perry said the group got a huge boost from Staples, which donated a lot of office furniture and supplies.
“They were amazing. The day after the fire they gave all sorts of things like staples, pens and file folders and then they told us to walk through their warehouse and pick out whatever furniture we needed to get back on our feet again,” Perry said. “I don’t know how much it cost, but it had to be in the thousands. We lost 100 per cent of our contents. The only things they could salvage were items out of storeroom that are items we rarely use. We lost all our books, toys, children’s files and equipment. It was all gone.”
Along with putting things back together, the program has had seen quite a bit of staff turnover as people left for other jobs.
Through it all, Perry said the organization needs to celebrate its successes.