Sexual Assault Support Center receives helping hands after electrical fire destroys office

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - Even weeks later, staff with the Sexual Assault Support Center of Columbus still can't get the smell of smoke out of their lungs.

"I'm usually the first one in the offices in the mornings, so walking up the stairs, everything felt still and stale and like... a dead feeling," Victim Advocate Karin Tyson describes as she remembers the day she came to work to find it smouldering.

The Sexual Assault Support Center's 6th Avenue offices suffered an electrical fire in late March. Although their spaces upstairs suffered minimal burn damage, the smoke and soot was enough to force a relocation.

"I had just paid the printers for these," Executive Director Kyle Bair tells News 3's Mikhaela Singleton as she opens a box of blackened pamphlets. "It's heartbreaking to look at some of the service items and things that we have that are covered in soot. You can just see the impact on every - it seeps into every thing everywhere."

Bair says she was devastated to see the difference in the office she and her staff spent nine years in reaching out to community survivors of sexual assault.

"There's a lot of heart and soul in this office and a lot of memories and a lot of support and we hope to continue that. We hope the community will step up and support us," Bair says.

That support has already started thanks to the Two Men and a Truck moving company, which sent a team to clean out the outreach program's offices Tuesday.

"They're amazing. You know they took apart my armoire, got all this heavy furniture out of here, they didn't have to do that," Bair says. "I'm so grateful, I know God is leading us through."

Gerald Ford is one of the movers who donated his time to aid the Sexual Assault Support Center. He says he's glad his bosses offered their helping hands, because he's grateful for all the help the center gives to assault survivors across Columbus.

"It makes me feel good that you've got people looking out for the kids, you know one day it could be mine or a relative or a friend. So it's always a good thing that you've got good people in the community," Ford says.

The Sexual Assault Support Center will continue offering victim advocacy and support services, despite currently lacking a permanent location. Regularly scheduled support group meetings will now gather at the Family Center of Columbus on 15th Avenue. If you or a loved one are in need of reporting, identifying, or coping with cases of sexual assault, the group's 24/7 hotline number is also still active at 706-571-6010.

Click here to donate to the Sexual Assault Support Center fund.

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