Fire destroys church sanctuary and preschool in Clay

Members of Clayridge Baptist Church spent the day salvaging items and making plans to keep the preschool open. That's after a fire ripped through the Clay church's sanctuary and preschool early Saturday morning.The Center Point Fire Department is still investigating the cause, but believes the fire started in the business office area. No one was injured.Cathy Hopper says, "At first it was sadness and wondering what was going to go on, but one of our members remembered Brother Ron has been preaching 4 to 6 weeks on re-building."The message of re-building lives has taken on a new meaning at Clayridge Baptist Church after a fire destroyed much of the building."It was a bad night, but a great morning." "The entire building is damaged, the lower level with water damage and heavy smoke damage, but the sanctuary is destroyed." Pastor Ron Hudgens says the fire happened around 3:30 Saturday morning. Local churches and the mayor have already offered support. Hudgens says "Some of its cherished stuff, but we have the memories so we'll be fine."Church members spent the day cleaning and trying to salvage anything they could. The church also runs a weekly preschool which serves around 100 children. The school is a total loss.Preschool Director, Tammy Pannell, says "For me and a lot of my staff, it's like home. Whenever we got up and heard the news, we immediately thought about the families we service and what we were going to do Monday morning."Pannel says neighboring Clearview Baptist Church is going to let the preschool operate at its facility. "They do have some things they can use because they had a Mother Day Out program."The church, which helped feed thousands of people after the 2012 tornado, recently paid off its mortgage. But, the pastor says they have insurance and the congregation will move forward and continue serving the community.Cathy Hopper says, "God's got bigger and better plans and we're going to re-build."There will be a church service in the parking lot Sunday morning at 11:00.What the church could use right now are some baby items to send over to Clearview Baptist where school is set to begin Monday morning.