When Lynn Hockenberger took over Children of Hope Child Development Center three years ago, she also took the reins of a multi-year fundraising project to get the preschool up to fire code.

The preschool was in the process of raising money to put in a sprinkler system, which is required under the Bret Tarver Sprinkler Ordinance. Passed in 2002, the law, named for the Phoenix firefighter who died in the line of duty, requires most buildings and businesses to have a sprinkler system.

Even though the preschool would be occupying Esperanza Lutheran Church, the area they were moving into needed to be reclassified as a place for education, and thus, needed to have a sprinkler system.

The only problem was the school was brand new and a nonprofit and they needed to raise, as it would turn out, about $60,000 for everything - the sprinkler system, alarm system and all the construction that both entailed.

"We sure didn't want to close down," Hockenberger said. "But for a small, faith-based preschool, it was a pretty daunting challenge. The fire department was close to shutting us down."

With help from the community, they started doing smaller fundraisers. But time was ticking, the fire marshal had given them a two-year extension and time was running out.

"It was a couple hundred dollars every time we did a fundraiser," said Desiree Wallin, board president of Children of Hope. "The community and local businesses were really coming through for us."

The final push they needed to meet their goals came from an unexpected place. Hockenberger applied for a grant from Evangelical Lutheran Education Association, but she wasn't getting her hopes up.

"It was kind of a shot in the dark, I honestly didn't expect to get it," she said. "But they came through last May with $10,000 that helped tremendously."

All components of the system were completed on Jan. 11 and they were approved to continue in their operations. Currently the school has 60 students, from 2 to 4 years old, and 10 staff members.

"We wanted an opportunity to thank supporters of the preschool, which includes the community and the congregation of Esperanza Lutheran," Hockenberger said.

To find out more about Children of Hope, Child Development Center, 2601 E. Thunderhill Place, visit www.childrenofhopecdc.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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