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East Valley community center thankful for help after fire

On Christmas Eve, an electrical fire started in a fish tank at the East Valley Jewish Community Center, left the facility will plenty of damage. (Photo by Bob McClay)

CHANDLER -- A Valley group is recovering from a fire at its facility in Chandler.

On Christmas Eve, an electrical fire started in a fish tank at the East Valley Jewish Community Center, leaving the facility with plenty of damage.

"That damage caused us to lose the immediate use of eight classrooms, seven offices, our kitchen and a multipurpose room," said executive director Steve Tepper.

The Chandler Fire Department said the blaze was "an electrical fire of an unsuspicious nature."

Tepper said he's amazed by the outpouring of support the EVJCC has received from the community. Both the Chandler Fire and Police departments have delivered boxes of toys to replace those lost in the fire. People of all faiths and walks of life have been dropping off donations.

Tepper said what was lost in the fire isn't the real story.

"It really has become, for us, a story about what we do have," said Tepper. "The support of a community that views us as an important institution and is willing to fight to try to help keep us open and keep these kids in their classroom and learning, being supported, and continuing their development. It's been, for me, awe-inspiring to be a part of."

But the EVJCC could still use help.

"At this stage, if people are able to donate, cash donations or gift cards (from stores such as Wal-Mart, Costco, or a similar store) are really, really helpful to us," said Tepper.

The East Valley Jewish Community Center is located at 908 N. Alma School Road in Chandler, near the intersection of Alma School and Ray roads. The telephone number is (480) 897-0588.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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