Fire severely damages home used by woman to help kids with special needs

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. --  A Lee's Summit woman, who dedicated more than a decade of her life to helping kids with special needs, could now use a helping hand this Christmas season. An early morning fire caused extensive damage to Mary Guthrie's home and consulting service.

Late last week the 64-year-old grandmother was rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke. Just after two a.m. on Thursday a fire ripped through her house on northeast Forest Avenue and left behind a lot of damage.

This was the same place where for 16 years Mary ran her "giant step" program. The non-profit helped special needs children from birth to age 21. A few years ago when her health failed, Mary scaled back her business and did consulting work for parents of children with special needs.

Mary's daughter and son-in-law just moved back to the U.S. from China.

"We're just happy that everybody's alive, but from an emotional standpoint for her to be in the hospital when this fire hits, you know, I mean it's devastating to all of us. It's devastating to family and friends," Cloyd Tavenner said.

They were home in Lee's Summit for the holidays when they got that terrible call about the fire.

"They say God only gives you what you can handle and God must think I can handle a lot," Mary’s daughter, Mickey, said.

Mary's 38-year-old son escaped the fire and wasn't hurt. Investigators told the family the fire may have started in the attic. If you wish to assist with a donation to help the family, one can be made at any Commerce Bank c/o Account # 1234571797. Donations can also be sent to the Autism Outreach Fellowship c/o Mary Guthrie Fund, P.O. Box 2407 Lee's Summit, MO 64063.

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