When A Tornado Destroys A Daycare, Parents Have To Scramble

Losing a staple like childcare is especially challenging for folks on the financial edge.

By Courtney CollinsJanuary 6, 2016 9:30 am,

This story originally appeared on KERA.

Christmas Day for three-year-old Hazel, and her mom, Kirby Taylor was pretty special. That’s partly because Hazel got a pot-bellied pig, Hoss, from Santa Claus.

The day after Christmas, a tornado tore across her community, the small town of Nevada, Texas, in Collin County.

“She started screaming at the top of her lungs and the pig jumped down off the couch and started running in circles. And that’s when I grabbed him and grabbed her and we went in the hallway,” Taylor says. “And I just threw a mattress out of the bedroom on top of us. And we stayed there until my dad came and they found us.”

‘It Felt Just Like A Death’

Kirby and Hazel live with Kirby’s parents. Their barn was damaged and they lost power for a day, but the house was spared.

The preschool Hazel attends wasn’t so lucky. The childcare center, called This I Know Christian Daycare, was destroyed.

“It felt just like a death. It felt just like we had actually lost somebody,” Taylor says.

Kirby is a single mom who often works two jobs to make ends meet. She says finding the This I Know daycare center, a place she trusted that was also affordable, was a god-send.

Kirby also appreciates the compassion of owner Wendy Sanders.

“I know there was one time that times were rough and she’s like, ‘Don’t even worry about it, you can get me the money when you can.’ And I know that she’s done that with more parents than just me,” Taylor says.

Memories In The Wreckage

Sanders and her husband were actually in the process of selling the daycare to a new owner when the tornado hit. They raced to the building as soon as it was safe.

“We just kept looking at that black and white checkered floor. This is where our kids napped, and ate and played and learned. It’s a place where families grew,” Wendy Sanders says.

With the daycare destroyed, Kirby pieced together childcare that first week with friends helping out and her parents taking Hazel out of town for a few days. She wasn’t sure about moving Hazel to a local church that will temporarily house kids from This I Know, and she couldn’t afford the next closest daycare.

“An extra $2,800 a year,” Kirby says. “I’m accustomed to working two jobs, but three would have been pushing it.”

Luckily, a former teacher at This I Know has offered to watch Hazel during the day for the same price Kirby paid to the daycare.

Long-Term Help

That’s one problem solved. Nonprofits are bracing for hundreds more in 2016.

“We are here are kicking off a brand new year and many people in our community are completely starting over,” says Jennifer Sampson, president and CEO of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

Soon after the tornadoes hit, her organization set up a long-term Disaster Relief Fund, to help storm victims rebuild their lives. The fund will send money to trusted nonprofits that will help people who’ve lost homes, cars, jobs, personal belongings and childcare.

“We’re going to be here for the long haul, because we know that the days, weeks and months ahead are going to be the biggest part of the recovery for the families suffering the most in our community,” Sampson says.

Donors have already poured $150,000 into that fund. That will go a long way toward helping neighbors in need.