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Dual-language preschool housed at church damaged by arson 'grateful' to be together

Listos Preschool and Childcare Director Christina Valdez said Friday, May 13, 2022, that without the temporary space at Mount Olive Church that the center would have likely closed.

Five people stand in front of sign that reads "Welcome Listos Preschool."
Listos Preschool and Childcare pose in front of a sign in their new temporary space at Mount Olive Church in Rochester after a fire forced the dual-language program out of its space at Peace United Church of Christ.<br/>
Contributed / Christina Valdez
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ROCHESTER — When Listos Preschool and Childcare Director Christina Valdez received a call last month that the church housing the dual-language program was damaged in a fire she didn’t know just how bad it truly was.

Even nearly a month after the fire, Valdez learns more about how significant the repair work will be to rebuild the portion of Peace United Church where the preschool was situated.

Rochester firefighters were called to Peace United Church of Christ , 1503 Second Ave. NE, in the early morning hours of April 18, 2022, in response to a fire alarm. A fire, determined to be arson, caused an estimated $2.5 million in damage.

A little less than a month after a fire was started at Peace United Church of Christ, church leaders and others gathered Thursday, May 12, 2022, to reflect on the fire, speak about the damage it caused and look toward the church’s future.

While services were held that Sunday at the church, Listos had to wait a little longer to welcome families back into its new, temporary location at Mount Olive Church. The church was previously home to Family Circle Learning Center, which closed on April 22, 2022. The child care center left its equipment for Listos to use.

“If this site hadn’t been available and so welcoming and so helpful and having the supplies here, there would be no Listos,” Valdez said. “That is the scary thing to think about.The fire, yes, it’s bad. You just have to not think about it. You don’t know why.

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“Having all the people come together and still be a community and still helping each other has been really good. We’re a small group and so when something like that happens, everybody really steps up, that is nice”

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In the days following the fire, Valdez and staff had to deal with the bureaucratic side of opening a childcare center, despite being licensed and moving into an already licensed site. That meant inspections by various agencies and rewriting of policies.

Initial monetary donations also allowed teachers to purchase a special item for each child.

As Listos welcomed families in for a tour of the space before reopening, Valdez said it was exhausting and exhilarating.

“We felt grateful we had this chance to still be together,” she said.

Those interested in supporting Listos can find a donation page on its website at www.listoskids.org/donate.

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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