ONE Fund helps Penn. teacher, family rebound from house fire

Andrea Caulkett and her sons.

Andrea Caulkett and her sons.

The North Huntingdon KinderCare center has been a home away from home for Andrea Caulkett since she first brought her oldest, then three-years-old, to the western Pennsylvania center nine years ago. She very much needed that homey feeling last summer after her family’s house was heavily damaged in a fire.

Caulkett and her two children were home last June when a terrible storm swept through their town. As the lights flickered around her, she heard a tornado warning and wasted no time gathering her sons and the family dog and heading down to the basement to wait out the storm. While they sheltered in the basement, Caulkett smelled smoke. She went upstairs to see what was wrong and noticed the light switches glowing: flames were racing through the house behind the walls. Caulkett grabbed her children (and the dog) and raced over to a neighbor’s house, leaving behind everything else.

After firefighters extinguished the flames, Caulkett and her fiancé went inside to survey the damage. Although the house was fixable, it would take months for the insurance company to sort out the claim and for workers to begin repairs. In the meantime, Caulkett and her family were without basic necessities.

“We were struggling with everything,” she said. “It was a tough situation.”

Overwhelmed as she was, Caulkett thought her predicament was something she needed to fix on her own. When her Center Director, Sherrie Klos, suggested she apply for the KinderCare Education ONE Fund, Caulkett hesitated – she didn’t think she would be a good applicant for the company’s employee relief fund.

Klos knew it could take months for the insurance company to sort everything out, and in the meantime she worried about her teacher. She continued encouraging Caulkett to apply for the ONE Fund, giving Caulkett the push she needed to fill out the application.

“I didn’t think my situation was bad enough for money [from the fund],” she said. “But when I got the call saying I’d been approved, I honestly teared up. I was so grateful. It was such a relief.”

Klos was “flabbergasted” by the quick response Caulkett received from the KinderCare Benefits team and proud of her company for offering such support to employees.

“Our teachers thought [the ONE Fund] was something for someone else, employees in a big city,” she explained. “This showed our teachers that they can help each other.”

Caulkett used the money she received from the ONE Fund to replace furniture, purchase food, and to pay for the gas she needed to commute to and from her house to supervise the repairs.

Now that the worst is over, Caulkett is back where she wants to be – in her infant classroom with her students – and encouraging other KinderCare employee to donate one dollar from each paycheck to the ONE Fund.

“You’ll make someone very, very happy,” she says about donating to the fund.

The ONE Fund helps KinderCare Education employees in need of immediate assistance due to a tragic event in their lives. It is supported solely by employees, for employees and has helped nearly 50 KinderCare teachers and staff since its inception in 2014. Employee participation is crucial to keep the fund strong. Click here (and click on the green button on the right hand start of the page after logging in) to start contributing any amount from your next paycheck.

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