WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A nonprofit in Wilkes-Barre Township has to find a new home after last month’s tornado destroyed the place.
Workers at Supporting Autism and Families Everywhere, also known as S.A.F.E., are worried because they got such a good deal on the rent in the Arena Hub Plaza.
People at S.A.F.E. said they hope they can find a place as nice as the one they’re forced to leave because it was a huge office that was specially designed for children who are on the autism spectrum.
They have been helping families with children on the autism spectrum out of their office on Mundy Street for 12 years. The deal on their rent made a big difference.
"It's allowed us to stay in this building and let our programs expand without the expense of the rent hindering us,” executive director Eileen Perchak said.
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However, that deal was undone by a natural disaster. A tornado ripped through this part of Wilkes-Barre Township last month, tearing the roof off the office building where S.A.F.E. ran its operation.
"It was devastating, more heartbreaking than anything, knowing what we provided up here for the autism community,” board president Dolphus Teart said.
“We are very urgently looking for a place. Our kids who come here for programs are used to routines and they're used to things being done in a certain place, in a certain way, so this is going to be a big adjustment for them,” assistant director Peggy Durako said.
It's still unclear if the building has to be demolished, but the owners said it needs extensive repairs, which could take months. They told tenants they'll need to find another place.
“We've had a lot of people calling us and people saying, 'Come look at our place,' which has been tremendous for us, a real outpouring from the community, which has been great,” Durako said.
However, people at S.A.F.E. said they won’t let tornado damage hold them back.
“You can't stop us now! Plus, on top of that, these services are badly, badly needed in the autism community and we just happen to be a group that is our pleasure to do those things,” Dolphus Teart said.
People at S.A.F.E. have to get all of their belongings out of the building by the end of September. They said they’ve looked at five potential new locations and haven’t decided on a new one just yet.
They are still running some of their programs for children on the autism spectrum remotely.