PARMA, Ohio — The St. Anthony of Padua community is rising from the ashes.
“Even from the start, when firefighters were putting out the fire, we were looking at what options we have for this school year, and right from the get-go packing it up for the school year was not an option,” said St. Anthony principal Patrick Klimkewicz.
The former St. Bridget of Kildare School will soon be the temporary home for 200 kindergarten through eighth grade St. Anthony students. They lost their building on Feb. 19 when Parma firefighters were called in the morning to fight flames inside the school, but by then, the damage was extensive.
“It’s been a rough nine days, but here we are are,” said Klimkewicz.
But he said it wouldn’t have been possible to rebuild without the community's help. Parents, businesses, students, staff, and strangers collected donations and hosted fundraisers to help.
Wednesday, The Parma Fire Department, in partnership with University Hospitals Parma Medical Center, sponsored a “Stuff the Squad” event collecting supplies, cleaning products, and other items to help the students and teachers whose classrooms were damaged in the fire.
“It seems like every time we turn around someone is dropping off donations, whether it's books or supplies for the teacher or the classroom,” said Klimkewicz.
Holy Name High School’s baseball team helped firefighters move and assemble those donations into St. Bridget on Wednesday evening.
“We are a giant team in this diocese and as soon as we could, we got over here and helped out,” said Mikey Sullivan, a senior at Holy Name.
Sullivan said they wanted to help.
“The principal came on the P.A. system and just said that they need help over at St. Bridget and I think all of us were just eager to get over there,” he said. “I hope that if we are ever in a situation like this, God forbid, people would do the same for us.”
Klimkewicz said it’s the gestures of good faith in these bad times that are overwhelming.
“It’s been humbling,” he said. “I’m really excited to get the kids back in the building, to have a full community back is something we all look forward to, that was the whole reason we tried to keep the school together.”
The first day of school for the entire student body is Monday.
Meanwhile, investigators are still looking for whoever is responsible for the arson and are offering a $12,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and a conviction.
Anyone with information on the person or persons responsible is asked to contact the State Fire Marshal tip line at 800-589-2728, Parma Police detective Marc Karkan at 440-887-7323, or the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 216-252-7463.