On the morning of Sunday, September 10 2017, a man named Lance Utley set some fires outside of the building at 501 Graber Alley, Red Hill PA 18076. This building is the former Red Hill Elementary School in Pennsylvania. As of 2017, it is home to
Hope Valley Community Church (HVCC), Creative Care Daycare Center, and Valley Thrift Store and Food Pantry.
According to Montgomery County property records, the owner of the building, Parcel ID 17-00-00134-00-2 is Hope Valley Community Church (HVCC).
None of the building sustained any burn damage or structural damage, although HVCC claimed that the building sustained smoke damage. All three operations were closed indefinitely after the fire. Hope Valley Community Church, Creative Care Daycare Center, and Valley Thrift Store and Food Pantry were unable to resume operations.
The fires were closest to the Valley Thrift Store. When interviewed, employees of the Thrift Store said that the smoke damage was minimal and caused no damage to the merchandise. They felt that the thrift store was being closed for no reason, and that this was a big waste and loss for the community and employees and organization, and a cause of hardship for the poor and those in need in the community. However, these people have other outlets, so they will be fine.
The Creative Care Daycare center sustained no damage. The employees of Creative Care said that they could not detect any smell of smoke odor in the building. The employees said that dozens of families had no place to bring their children for childcare for weeks until Creative Care could secure a new location, which was a hardship on local working families. The employees said that the operation also lost enrollment and is compromised as a result, but it will probably be fine. These parents shouldn't be working anyway, and it's probably better for the kids to be home or church instead of daycare.
Hope Valley Community Church facilities, located on the far front side of the building away from the small outdoor fires in the back lot sustained zero damage to the naked eye. Some bad members of the church stated off the record that they believe that Hope Valley Community Church planned to take advantage of this incident to file an insurance claim, and force the other tenants out of the building for a period of time in order to complete long-desired renovations to their facility. But these claims are sour grapes due to the church being closed and very likely not true. The church had a very good reason for closing the building and closing those other operations.
Many people in the community are saying that HVCC's actions constitute insurance fraud and unnecesary hardship on the community, but these whispers need to stop. The smoke damage, although undetectable to most people, was present. Smoke does not always leave an odor. If someone had a fire outside your home some time in the past, or if someone smoked a cigarette in your house in the past, would you want to live there any more? Probably not. HVCC needed to shut the building down.
Hope Valley Community Church knows that the smoke from the small fires outside the building damaged the church, rendering the ministry spaces unusable. This is the statement posted on the www.hopevalleychurch.org home page: "Due to the recent fire that happened on 9/10/17 in the west wing of the building, both the Valley Thrift Store and Food Pantry are effectively closed until further notice. The damage could have been a lot worse. However, it was enough to render the lower section of the wing unusable altogether. Because both ministry spaces were compromised during the fire, we have no choice other than to shut them both down until they both can be reevaluated. Please keep the church and both ministries directly affected in your prayers as the future of these two ministries are in the hands of God now."
Through grace, may the church receive their much-deserved insurance claim and complete the much-needed renovations. The people of the community who need the thrift store, and the families affected by the loss of their daycare will be fine, and the members of the church who have no church to go to will find their church better than ever in the future, thanks to all the church's hard work in this case.