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Examiner
  • Mother's Refuge will take months to rebuild

  • The fire that broke out at the home for pregnant teens Monday night destroyed much of the home and its contents. Angel McDonald, program director for the organization, said the fire started near a dresser in one of the bedrooms before moving to the bed and to the rest of the east portion of the house. Two women, one who was a resident, and one child were in the house at the time. All three got out safely.

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  • The door stood open to the Mother’s Refuge home in southwest Independence Tuesday afternoon. At first glance, it did not appear that anything was out of the ordinary, with the exception of the burnt wood and debris smell hanging in the air.
    But turning down a long corridor, the scene was much different. Insulation hung haphazardly from the ceiling. The walls were black, charred from top to bottom, and there was so much water and debris on the floors that it no longer felt solid. Turning into one of the bedrooms, it appeared that a fireball had gone through, leaving a thick layer of soot and ash over everything and a charred crib in the corner.
    “The sad part is that in the last five years, we have really been sprucing up this place with new paint and furniture,” said Robert Zornes, executive director of Mother’s Refuge in Independence. “It really was a blessing in disguise that we are currently low in numbers. There could have been a lot more girls and children here when it happened.”
    The fire that broke out at the home for pregnant teens Monday night destroyed much of the home and its contents. Angel McDonald, program director for the organization, said the fire started near a dresser in one of the bedrooms before moving to the bed and to the rest of the east portion of the house. Two women, one who was a resident, and one child were in the house at the time. All three got out safely.
    Mother’s Refuge started in 1987 as a program for pregnant teenagers, 19-years and younger. According to the Mother’s Refuge website, www.mothersrefuge.org, a teenage girl can be admitted into the program any time during her pregnancy. Residents can stay in the program until their child is one-year-old, but must continue their education as well as participate in household responsibilities. In exchange, Mother’s Refuge provides the girls with a home, clothing, food, access to medical care and infant, parenting and practical life-skills classes. After completing the program, girls can return home, live independently, move to another residential facility or enter into the aftercare/transitional living program.
    Since the program started, more than 1,200 young women and babies have been helped. Currently, four girls and two babies are in the program.
    “The one girl who was there (when the fire started) was pretty shook up last night,” McDonald said. “But they all seem to be in pretty good spirits today. We have really rallied together, the Mother’s Refuge family, to support and encourage them. They are all safe, and that is the important thing.”
    Zornes said he believes much of the interior of the home will have to be gutted and rebuilt, forcing staff to seek an alternative living situation for the program’s residents. He said Drumm Farm has offered space for the girls, but only for about 60 days. That means a more long term solution will need to be found.
    Page 2 of 2 - “No one can live in the house, and it will probably be at least six months before we can get back inside,” he said. “We are really searching for a house that we can use temporarily until we can rebuild and live in the house once again.”
    The fire caused most of the house’s contents to be lost, either due to fire or water damage. A few small personal items have been rescued, along with two large freezers. However, donations are needed from the community to help the girls and their children.
    “They need clothing such as jeans, shoes and socks; personal hygiene items and of course, things for the babies,” McDonald said. “With the weather turning colder, they will also need jackets and coats and all of the furniture will need to be replaced. Nothing is salvageable. Most everything was completely burned to shreds or damaged from the heat and water.”
    For more information on Mother’s Refuge or to find out how to donate, visit its website at www.mothersrefuge.org or call 816-353-8070.

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