DRESDEN — The fire that destroyed the Freedom Center transition home on Route 27 might have brought down the structure, but it didn’t do anything to damage the center’s mission or its founder’s spirit.

Jan Burns founded the mental health and drug recovery center in 2014 and said that though the fire and the loss of her dog Snickers were very traumatic, she looks to the future with excitement.

“We’re looking at this as a way to help people in a better way than we did before,” Burns said by phone in a recent interview. “We’re going to have fun and take the things we didn’t do right the first time and make it better.”

The early morning fire Oct. 1 displaced 11 residents that Burns said “have been doing very well” since the incident. She said many of them have their own places and none are expected back as residents of the new Freedom Center when it opens between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We’ve continued to connect with some of them, and though some didn’t want the connection, we know they’re all safe,” she said. “They’re transitioning very well considering what they’ve been through.”

The new building will be smaller by footprint than the previous structure, but because of a better design and use of space, Burns said there will be 14 bedrooms instead of 13. That means there is room for 11 residents and three staffers, and Burns has added other amenities to the facility as well, including a conference room.

“In the old place, we didn’t have privacy, so if we wanted to talk to a resident, we’d be upstairs in one of the bedrooms where other people could hear,” she said. “This way we can have private conversations with people when we need to.”

She spent time last week with one of the former residents, and they talked about what worked in the old center and what they’d like to see in the new one. One of the things Burns hopes to add is a gym for the residents.

The original entrance and fireplace remains, while the rest of the structure is being rebuilt. There will be an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bedroom and bathroom, kitchen, laundry area, dining room, social room and conference room on the first floor. The other 13 bedrooms and private bathrooms will make up the second floor. The building will meet state safety code requirements and will have new security cameras and an indoor sprinkler system, Burns said.

Insurance is covering most of the reconstruction costs, but she estimates she’ll need to raise about $75,000 to complete the job. The estimated cost, Burns said, wasn’t as high as she expected because of how much the local community has contributed.

“The people who have worked on the building have been incredibly generous and have donated their time in lots of areas,” she said. “We’ve already purchased a lot of the furnishings, but we’ll need more donations.”

Luckily, nobody was injured in the fire, though residents were devastated that Snickers, Burns’ dog, did not survive. She said it’s easy to replace the building, but Snickers had become part of the Freedom Center family.

The dog’s breeder reached out to Burns after the fire and offered her the first pick of a new litter, and now Snickers’ sister, Sasha, hangs around the construction site and will become part of the new Freedom Center family.

The building was one of the largest in Dresden, Fire Chief Steve Lilly said. The Freedom Center was granted a business permit in July 2015 to operate as a nonprofit recovery center.

The facility provides private bedrooms and private bathrooms to men in recovery. These types of facilities are in demand across the state and are often filled to capacity. Burns hopes to ultimately have another Freedom Center to serve females in need.

A lot of people didn’t know the center had been lost in a fire, Burns said, so she’s continued fielding calls from potential residents the last several months. She doesn’t think she’ll have any problem filling the 11 available rooms, but admits that it’s bittersweet, because ideally, there wouldn’t be a need for the Freedom Center at all.

“The sad thing is we need more (places like this),” she said.

Burns said the residents and staff at the center were a big family, and some of the residents had never been around a loving atmosphere.

“It gave them a safe place to be and being there gave them hope that they didn’t have before,” she said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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