Helping Coatesville kids cope with fires

February 19, 2009 9:47:46 AM PST
Whoever is responsible for the arsons plaguing Coatesville is still out there.That's a difficult fact for any one of Coatesville's residents to handle.

But, it's especially frightening for young children.

Parents, like Katrece Reece, are seeing evidence of that everyday.

She says she sleeps with one eye open.

"Just because you hear the sirens and the helicopters and you just never know where the fires are going to be," Reese said.

Reese figures her daughter, four-year-old Najae, is too young to understand why her mom is losing sleep. But, parents of older kids say they have been searching for words to comfort their children.

"I say mommy is looking over you, God is looking over you," said Alisa Waiters of Coatesville.

Educators in Coatesville say, in some isolated cases, counselors are helping kids who are struggling with the question: Why is someone continuing to set fires?

"We are experiencing some coming to school saying they are having a difficult time sleeping, they are not comfortable where they are currently living, and they have definitely taken on the fear aspect," said Superintendent Richard Como.

Last month's Fleetwood fire destroyed the homes of six high school students. Many of their peers joined school staffers in helping the six not miss a day of school.

"Every student has gone to every single class," said Assistant Principal Eugenia Roberts of Coatesville High School. "We've seen them in between classes, maybe pulled them aside just to do a status check, but life went back to normal on Monday, and life continues to be normal."

Residents say the emotional fallout is real. Collis Farrow says his 8-year-old started having more frequent bad dreams after watching a neighbors house burn.

"I'll hold her, she'll say "I want to be with you for a minute," and I'll say "okay." I hold her, she falls asleep," Farrow said.

Beginning Thursday night, a county organization will sponsor a series of workshops on how to cope with insomnia and anxiety with a special emphasis on helping kids.

Reward Fund

A reward fund has been set up to help catch those responsible for the fires. Contributions can be sent to:

Citadel Federal Credit Union
Coatesville Reward Fund
Attn: Office Manager
135 Modena Road
Coatesville, PA 19320

Another fund has been set up to help the people affected by the fires. Donations can be sent to:

Citadel Federal Credit Union
Coatesville Family Fund
Attn: Office Manager
135 Modena Road
Coatesville, PA 19320

Phone Numbers:

Coatesville Police Hotline: (610) 636-0514

Citizen's Crime Commission: 215-546-TIPS

Crimestoppers: 1-800-4-PA-TIPS.

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