JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Six months after an EF-3 tornado blew through Jefferson City, many businesses are still trying to rebuild.
Joy and Gladness Children's Academy is among them. The daycare was located on East McCarty Street, but it was demolished in mid-November after the tornado damaged the building in May.
It was the only 24-hour daycare center in the capital city when the tornado ravaged the city.
Owner Lakaisha McCaleb-Sutherland recalls the exact moment she pulled up to her business after her phone rang off the hook with calls from her employees, family members and parents of kids inside the daycare at the time of the tornado.
“It was raining and I couldn’t really see because I had so much tears coming down my face ... I just can't believe that we’d been hit," she said.
There were seven kids inside the daycare when the tornado hit, but no one was injured.
“The playground was destroyed, the roof was off," she said. "It was horrible."
ABC 17 News crews were the first at the daycare after the storm and spoke to McCaleb-Sutherland and her employees.
McCaleb-Sutherland's wedding was two weeks after the tornado. She canceled her bridal showers and honeymoon to deal with the loss of her business.
McCaleb-Sutherland said she received help from community organizations, churches, anonymous donors and Central Missouri Community Action.
Angela Hirsch is the chief program officer for CMCA, which helped McCaleb-Sutherland with some storage costs to keep the items that weren't damaged safe from the elements.
Hirsch said McCaleb-Sutherland's 24-hour daycare served a need in the community.
“That’s an anomaly," Hirsch said. "You don’t see it very often. And for that to have been destroyed, I know it affected her and her family endlessly but also the families who depended on her to be able to go to work and to meet their families' needs and to support their families had a major ripple effect."
“I was just saying, What do I do? I'm getting up in the morning. And I don't have a job to go to I don't have a building to go to," McCaleb-Sutherland said.
McCaleb-Sutherland is looking for a new building or land to set up Joy & Gladness Children's Academy, but in the meantime, she and her mother are running daycares out of their homes to make some income.
“We've just been taking it one day at a time. Just hoping and praying to God that we can get back up and running because even within a home it’s different. This is our home. And sometimes home don’t feel like home some days," she said.
McCaleb-Sutherland said Joy & Gladness Children's Academy used to care for about 78 kids every day, but in-home daycares aren't authorized to care for that many kids at a time. The number she and her mother are allowed to care for has dropped to about nine total. With a drop in children attending their daycare, it means their income dropped too.
“This is our livelihood. This is our career. This is what we do," she said.
Joy & Gladness Children's Academy was one of 500 buildings damaged from the tornado and it was torn down in mid-November.
“Rome wasn't built in a day and Jefferson City won't be rebuilt in a day," Jefferson City building official Larry Burkhardt said.