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How this nonprofit is still going after massive fire, and how you can help
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Executive Director of Connectability Jacqueline Daniel checks on what is left of her desk on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, after a fire destroyed nearly everything inside the nonprofit in Dahlonega last week. Connectability is a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities. - photo by Austin Steele

Walking through the ashen remains and broken glass, ConnectAbility’s executive director Jacqueline Daniel reminisced on how far the nonprofit had come.

She thought of all the people who had helped build up the Dahlonega nonprofit, which has served children and adults with special needs since 2010, as its office stood scorched beyond repair.

Daniel said it was “devastating” to walk through after the fire Feb. 26 at the nonprofit’s office on Memorial Drive.

Daniel received a call just before 11 p.m. that night and hurried down from her home minutes away. She stayed there for almost two hours as firefighters fought the blaze.

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Photos from a photography project put on by Connectability are damaged from a fire last week that nearly destroyed everything at the nonprofit. - photo by Austin Steele

The TV melted into a pile of plastic on the floor. A photo collage reading LOVE, though damaged, stayed intact. But overall, the place was destroyed.

The nonprofit offers a monthly respite care program for children and adults with special needs with more than 100 participants and volunteers, according to its website.

ConnectAbility also holds events hosted by licensed play therapists called “sibling workshops,” and its “Race for a Reason” allows teams to compete in year-round events with racing wheelchairs.

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A love sign remains hanging at Connectability on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, following a fire last week that nearly destroyed everything in the building. Connectability is a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities. - photo by Austin Steele

Its work continues, but in a different setting.

“For right now, we’re all working around the dining room table at my house,” Daniel said.

“We’re working really hard to continue offering our programs without interruption, because we already meet at other places in the community for our bigger programs,” Daniel said.

Daniel said the loss of materials was at least $30,000 for event supplies, office furniture and even office supplies like paper.

After an immediate outpouring of support, the nonprofit has been able to keep going. The staff was working this week to move in to the office space next door, though smaller than the original.

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Connectability, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, suffered a fire last week that nearly destroyed everything in the building. - photo by Austin Steele

Daniel posted a wish list on the organization’s website, with items including chairs, desks, cleaning supplies, carts, storage supplies and office supplies.

Hundreds of people have reached out to Daniel, even beyond the families that are served by ConnectAbility.

“People who don’t even benefit directly from the services that we provide have just shown a huge tidal wave of support in wanting to help us get back on track and get back up to full speed,” Daniel said.

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Connectability's vision statement remains hanging on the wall on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, following a fire last week that nearly destroyed everything in the building. - photo by Austin Steele
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Anne Lownes, an intern at Connectability, washes dishes donated by the community on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, following the fire last week that nearly destroyed everything in the building. The nonprofit has moved next door for the time being and continues to offer services. - photo by Austin Steele
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