DRESDEN — When the Freedom Center transitional home on Route 27 burned down in October 2016, founder Jan Burns knew it would be rebuilt; she just didn’t know how long it would take.

Burns, who founded the mental health and drug recovery center in 2014, said she’s expecting the new facility to be open around the end of February or the beginning of March.

The facility serves men in recovery who already have completed rehabilitation.

“It’s going well and it’s looking good,” Burns said. “We still have a little more to do on the outside.”

When firefighters arrived at the Freedom Center in the early hours of Oct. 1, 2016, heavy black smoke was pouring out of the two-story building’s eaves. The initial call reported flames showing at the roof.

Firefighters from 11 communities joined the Dresden Fire Department in responding, and 50 to 70 firefighters were able to get the fire under control in a few hours.

The fire was contained to the attic and roof. The second floor sustained considerable water damage, and parts of the roof caved in on it. The first floor was damaged by smoke and water. The building’s 13 residents were left homeless.

Burns was not at the residence at the time of the fire. Her dog, Snickers, did not survive.

The state fire marshal’s investigation showed the fire probably was caused by someone who was smoking.

Burns said the men who lived there at the time have found new residences and aren’t expected to return when the Freedom Center reopens. Because so much demand for transitional housing exists, she said, filling the center won’t take long.

Before it was transitional housing, the building at 633 Gardiner Road was an inn with a restaurant and a bar, and later a church.

The Freedom Center provides private bedrooms and bathrooms to people in recovery.

“Our vision is to work on body, soul and spirit,” she said. “I knew what I wanted, and we made it happen.”

The new building will be smaller than the previous structure, she said, but because of a better design and use of space, it will have 14 bedrooms instead of 13, housing 11 residents and three staff members.

One handicapped-accessible bedroom and bathroom will be on the first floor, along with a kitchen, a laundry area and a dining room. The other 13 bedrooms and private bathrooms will make up the second floor.

Burns has added amenities to the facility, including a conference room and a gymnasium.

There will be a place where residents can play music, a TV and game room and an internet café, and there will be other things former residents said they wanted in a new facility.

The building will have an indoor sprinkler system and security cameras.

Burns originally hoped the new Freedom Center would be open in time for Thanksgiving or the December holiday season. A major storm in October caused a delay because of a loss of power at the site, and over the holidays people often take vacations.

“We lost a lot of time that we didn’t expect to lose,” she said. “I really think it’s gone pretty smooth for a building of that size.”

Funding comes from private donations, grants and rent paid by the residents themselves. Burns is continuing to search for additional funding and may do some fundraising, too. Insurance has covered most of the reconstruction costs, but she said the overall cost hasn’t been as high as she expected because of how much the local community has contributed.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’ve had a fantastic crew of people working on the building.”

She said building was lost during the fire, but the passion and dedication of all the people involved in the Freedom Center never has wavered.

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

Burns said she is planning to host a grand re-opening and open house for the new Freedom Center early next year. She wants the community to see how hard everyone has worked and how much good this facility will do for its residents.

“It gives (the residents) a safe place to be and give them hope they may not have had before,” she said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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