Fire-scarred Santa Rosa preschool gets help from grant

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- There was a special gift Wednesday for a preschool in Sonoma County.

The Sonoma County Vintners Foundation presented the Mark West Community Preschool in Santa Rosa with a grant. The money will help build a new school with fire-resistant materials.

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"Do you remember when we moved into this site?"

A quiet moment between a teacher and the pre-school girl on her lap, pressing against her chest. Two people, from two generations, with one event in common -- and not alone.

At Mark West Community Preschool, about half the kids and three of their teachers all share the same experience. They lost homes in the North Bay Firestorm.

"We just sit down and let the kids talk about it. We share with them as much as we can," said teacher Heather Peters.

"She talks about losing her home. About the fire and how scary it was," said co-owner Jenny Kenyon of the little girl in her lap.

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It was scary on so many levels. When the Tubbs Fire roared through Santa Rosa, it took more than Jenny Kenyon's house. In fleeing, she brought her own family to the old campus near Mark West Springs Road. Flames also consumed that, as well.

Only weeds remain, now, along with a rusted swing set with melted plastic still clinging to the chain. In the same way, Jenny retains a hope that somehow, they might be able to move back from their temporary campus and rebuild this one. "We need another $1.5 million."

After Wednesday morning, Mark West Community Preschool is a step closer. The Sonoma County Vintners Foundation handed them a check for $25,000 -- a recognition of the merits of this school, said Mike Haney. "Well I think the children, the type of work. The quality of work," said Mike Haney.

"We have one family that is back in their house," noted Renee Whitlock-Hemsouvanh, the school's other owner. "We hope to build in time for some of the younger children to see it. We want to do this right the first time. The $25,000 gives us hope."

Every bit helps for this community of teachers and children on the mend.

"The impact on these little humans is intense and amazing and we have a lot of work to do to support them through this," said Jenny.

They have each other.

See more stories and videos related to the North Bay fires.

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