Local Charity Reeling From Fire That Destroyed Building

Orchard Village, which provides homes, job training and other care for the developmentally disabled from Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles, etc., suffered a big blow.

An Orchard Village building was destroyed by fire. Photo: Pam DeFiglio, Patch.com.
An Orchard Village building was destroyed by fire. Photo: Pam DeFiglio, Patch.com.

The scent of smoke from a huge blaze Tuesday night still hung in the air Wednesday at Orchard Village, a non-profit which is based in Skokie and helps developmentally disabled people in Morton Grove, Skokie, Glenview, Niles and elsewhere.  

Joy Decker, Orchard Village's president and CEO, and Peter Kuntz, vice president of development, were dealing with the shock of having the fire consume one of the non-profit's key buildings, which was recently remodeled and contained an assembly hall, a formal conference room and storage areas. Because most of Orchard Village's buildings are small residential homes, the assembly/conference room building provided a space for larger gatherings. 

Earlier: Big Fire At Home For Disabled Causes $200,000 In Damages

"It was the focus of a lot of activities--for example, staff training, meetings and holiday gatherings," Kuntz said. "It was sort of our multi-purpose room."

Some disabled clients who don't have the capabilities to work in jobs in a workplace participated in Job Club, performing piecework in the building, too, they said.
Both said they were grateful no one was hurt, and that they were exploring what to do next. They believe the fire was accidental, probably the result of repairs being made earlier in the day. 

"The Skokie Fire and Police crew were amazing," Decker said in a statement.  "Stlll, it's a shock to lose such an essential part of our infrastructure."

Decker said Orchard Village would continue in its mission, which includes providing residences and vocational training for developmentally disabled clients, operating an academy for those aged 17 to 21 who were in special ed classes in high school, and providing in-home services.

Orchard Village has one residence, its office and the academy--as well as the former assembly hall--on a cul-de-sac street, Marmora, just north of Howard Street in Skokie, near Morton Grove. Asked if the seven adult residents who live there were frightened by the fire, Decker said the staff calmed them and explained to them what was happening. 

Kuntz said Orchard Village was already in the midst of a holiday fundraising campaign, but with the fire, donations would be especially appreciated. Click here for more information. 

In addition to the one residence Orchard Village has on the Marmora Street cul de sac, it has 11 residences across Skokie, Morton Grove and Glenview providing homes to around 80 residents. It serves another 135 individuals via vocational/job placement services, a dozen or more students at its Academy, and works with more than 50 individuals and families in the surrounding communities.


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