Preschool seeks community support after flood

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Tender Years Preschool in Naugatuck sustained heavy damage due flooding from the Aug. 1 storm. A toy and materials drive is being held Sunday, from 1 to 3 p.m., on the Naugatuck Green to help the preschool. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — A bright sun shone down Monday on toys, furniture, books and supplies piled outside Tender Years Preschool.

The colorful mountain was waiting to be thrown out after a flash flood two weeks ago destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of items in the room the preschool rents from the Congregational Church downtown.

The owners of the for-profit preschool, which has operated in the borough for generations, and students’ families are hoping a fundraiser and toy drive Sunday will bring new and lightly used supplies to replace the mounds of trashed items.

“The room might be put back together but there’s nothing in it,” said Stephanie Gunnoud Savoy, whose niece attends the preschool.

Savoy is a public adjuster with DePino Associates of New Haven, which is donating its services to the preschool and sponsoring Sunday’s fundraiser on the Green.

As more than five inches of rain fell on the borough in one hour on Aug. 1, a torrent of water flowed down Meadow Street and into the preschool room in the church basement, flooding it with six inches of water.

The church’s flood insurance will pay for new drywall and floor tiles, but the preschool does not have flood insurance and must replace its own property, Savoy said.

The church on Division Street was built in 1887, and the basement floor tiles are old enough that they contain asbestos, which will be abated next week, Savoy said.

The preschool is still on track to open Sept. 4 for the school year.

“There’s no question in my mind that they will be done in time,” Savoy said.

The preschool, as usual, can enroll about 90 students ages 3 to 5 in morning, afternoon or all-day sessions, said co-owner and co-director Teresa Paternoster.

Families and well-wishers started donating to Tender Years as soon as word got out about the flood, which destroyed almost everything the children work and play with, along with more expensive items like a refrigerator, bookshelves and cubbies.

Savoy said the preschool needs any toys, books, craft supplies and decorations suitable for preschoolers, and money to buy such things.

“Whatever people are able to give, we’re appreciative,” Savoy said. “Even five dollars buys an art pad.”

The toy and supply drive will be held Sunday, from 1 to 3 p.m., on the Town Green. The fundraiser will feature a bounce house donated by borough-based B Bounce ‘N, cotton candy and popcorn. Admission is free, but families are asked to bring at least one toy or item for the preschool, and every station will have a jar for financial donations, Savoy said.

The Howard Whittemore Memorial Library across the street has become a collection point for books and other materials to donate, said Matt Yanarella, children’s librarian.

By Sunday’s event, Yanarella predicted the library will have collected 300 books, including spare copies from the library itself, for Tender Years.

“They’re so well regarded in the community that there’s been an interest in helping them out,” Yanarella said.