BREAKING NEWS: ConnectAbilty office gutted by fire

Jacqueline Daniel got the call just after 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

The downtown headquarters of ConnectAbility was on fire.

The executive director of the popular non-profit organization was on the scene within a few minutes and watched as Lumpkin County firefighters hosed down the gutted interior of the Memorial Drive building.

“It was just a shock,” she told The Nugget Wednesday morning as she returned to inspect the damage.

Chief David Wimpy said flames had already burst out of the windows when the fire was reported by a passerby. Since the downtown fire station is just down the road, responders were reportedly on the scene within less than a minute.

“Luckily at Station One everybody was in quarters so they were there in 30 seconds,” Wimpy said. “They knocked it down pretty quickly.”

The cause of the blaze is still undetermined as inspectors had yet to arrive at the scene.

Meanwhile Daniel braced herself as she planned to sift through the remains of the office which they have occupied for the last several years.

“This has been a really good location for us,” she said. “We have a lot of visibility and we always have a lot of people stopping in.”

Daniel took comfort in the fact that all vital info was properly backed-up prior to the blaze.

“Time will tell but I think we’ve done a good job of getting things scanned and digitized and saved,” she said.

ConnectAbility will soon have a new home as well.

The Ledbetter family, which owns the property the facility sits on, has already offered to provide the neighboring building as a new headquarters.

ConnectAbilty is a non-profit that specializes in providing support to children and adults with special needs. Now the organization, which is renowned for helping others, is in need of its own helping hand.

“There’s a lot of unknown factors at the moment but certainly we could use any type of financial donations,” Daniel said. “Obviously we have insurance but we’re a non-profit and all the programs that we offer are at no charge to the families we work with.”

Daniel said she doesn’t plan on allowing the fire to interrupt those programs either.

“We’ve lost a lot of our stuff but our programs are going to continue on,” she said. “There’s no reason that we can’t continue to operate.”

In other words, it will take a lot more than smoke and fire to slow down the folks at ConnectAbility.

“This is just a building,” she said. “And this is just stuff. But really what we do is in the hearts of all the people that we work with. This is a change, but this is not the end by any means.”

Those who would like to assist ConnectAbility can find their contact information at connectabilityinc.org. Keep checking back in to thedahloneganugget.com for further updates.

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