— Victim Assistance Program main office staff continues to work offsite after a fire destroyed the third floor offices on Saturday, June 24. Executive Director Leanne Graham discovered the remnants of the fire when she went to inspect the 24-hour crisis hotline.
An Akron Police detective contacted her Saturday afternoon as she required an advocate on scene — no one could be reached through the hotline.
“Because the staff followed our policy and closed the doors and windows before leaving, the fire extinguished itself and did not spread throughout the building,” Graham said. “We are very fortunate no one was hurt.”
The remaining two floors did sustain smoke and soot damage, however.
Graham said the building, at 150 Furnace St. in Akron, will remain closed until July 17, when cleanup from smoke and soot damage is expected to be completed on the first and second floors.
“There has been no disruption in services,” Graham said. “We are able to connect remotely to our server, our phones are now forwarded to an answering service who is then patching calls to assigned advocates and interns who are working offsite.”
For meetings, the agency is using the Safety Forces Chaplaincy Centers conference room, which is in front of the VAP building, while Graham looks for a temporary home for the five staff members who won’t be able to return to their third floor offices until sometime in August.
Because of the extensive damage, the fire investigator could not determine the cause other than to say it was electrical, Graham said.
The third floor houses VAP’s 24-hour hotline computer system, work stations for two full time victim advocates, two work stations for interns and volunteers, three administrative offices and a storage area where all outreach, education and informational materials and equipment are kept.
While the agency has insurance to cover most of the damage, Graham said she knows there will be out-of-pocket costs over the next few months.
Victim Assistance Program was looking forward to raising funds to help with costs on Friday, June 30 at the Cuyahoga Falls First Responder Appreciation Night. This previously scheduled event was expected to raise a few thousand dollars from donations, tips and drink sales. The unexpected thunderstorm caused the six hour event to only last one hour — it has not been rescheduled.
Due to Victim Assistance Program’s unfortunate situation, the City of Cuyahoga Falls is donating $1,000 to help Victim Assistance overcome their misfortunes.
Donations may be made by mail to Victim Assistance Program, 150 Furnace St., Akron, Ohio 44304, or through Paypal by going to the VAP website.