Rainbow House recovering from fire

By Ed Brock

The Rainbow House children's shelter is nearly restored to life, thanks to a lot of help from its supporters in the community.

"We have had wonderful community response," said Rainbow House director Phil Kouns, adding that the shelter is scheduled to reopen on Feb. 1.

After a Nov. 4 fire in a storage shed at the Rainbow House building in Jonesboro, the shelter was forced to close. Foster homes had to be found for the children who were staying there due to state intervention in their families for cases of drug abuse, deprivation or other reasons.

The fire destroyed the shed and caused a great deal of smoke and water damage to the interior. Also, the shelter's insurance didn't cover the entire cost of replacing items damaged in the fire, like furniture, toys and electronics, said Rainbow House Inc. treasurer Judy Taylor.

"We're going to have to spend up to $50,000 to $75,000," Taylor said last month.

Also, Kouns said the shelter lost around $100,000 in income from per diem reimbursements from the state's Department of Human Resources that it only receives when children are at the shelter.

However, along with the shelter's regular fund-raising events, such as the Festival of Trees and Lights at Clayton County International Park and a telethon at Southern Regional Medical Center, individuals and groups in Clayton and other counties came together to donate money and items to the shelter.

"A Friend's House" children's shelter in Henry County held a bake sale to benefit Rainbow House. The city of Riverdale collected needed items during the telethon, and Riverdale Firefighter Bo Cummings took part in a fund-raiser that was part of his Management Development class sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The class, which included Jonesboro Police Chief Robert Thomas and other employees of the cities of LaFayette, Jonesboro, Locust Grove and Riverdale, set their goal at $1,000. They raised $3,050.

"The whole class had to come together to work on a project that would benefit the community," Cummings said.

Cummings said the money was raised by word-of-mouth and by buckets put out at Riverdale City Hall. Riverdale Fire Chief Billy Hayes said his department also contributed $500 from a community grant they received from Wal-Mart.

"Every time we get one of those community grants, we try to put it right back into the community," Hayes said.

Hayes also said that in 1998 he was asked to do a needs assessment for the shelter as a project for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce "Leadership Clayton" program. Having gone from that to see the shelter grow, then almost crumble and then come back again makes him "feel like I've come full circle."

"I'm certainly proud of my folks for choosing that as their project," Hayes said.

The other members of Cummings' class were Riverdale Police Department employee Myisha Callaway, Ruth Dick, Jean Sullivan, Minnette Pass, Theresa Breedlove, Ken Swanson, David Ellis, Paul Weathers, Angela Edwards, Rod Robertson, Marcus Mathis, Jay Sherwood, David Holt and Sam Durrance. Their instructor was Scot Wrighton.

Kouns said that last week they were moving new furniture into the shelter.

"There's lots of little odds and ends left before we open up," Kouns said.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to see the shelter during an open house planned for Feb. 6 from 2 to 4 p.m.

"We'd love for the community to come and see how they have helped us," Kouns said. "In spite of all this mess we have just felt really blessed."