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Woman honored with Florida Department of Children and Families award for saving 20 children

4:50 PM, Jul 24, 2013   |    comments
Starkes receiving her DCF award
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A child care facility operator was honored Wednesday by the Florida Department of Children and Families for saving the children's lives.

"I'm honored but at the same time, I'm thankful it wasn't a tragedy," said Taki Starkes-Parish, who received the honor

Starkes-Parish safely evacuated 20 children from the building after smelling carbon monoxide. She said she knew something wasn't right.

"It smelled like a sweet burning smell in the building," she said.

Starkes said staff told her the daycare's children looked "groggy" and that a staff member also told her she too was "groggy." Starkes said she looked for a source, but did not find one.

"So, I just evacuated and got them out and sat them on the side until the fire rescue came," Starkes explained.

Tests later confirmed that there was carbon monoxide in the building, which could have been deadly to the children if they had not been evacuated. Twelve of the children had to be hospitalized.

Two of the hospitalized children belong to Donnita Stephens, of Jacksonville. Her children are five and six years old.

"We could've been having 12, 15 funerals for them kids," Stephens said. "Just that many was over the level of '10.' You could've been burying them. Carbon monoxide is nothing to play with. So yeah, I would consider her a hero!"

With a smile, Starkes told FCN she wouldn't call herself a hero. Rather, she said she was following her practiced emergency plan.

The DCF's top official in Northeast Florida, David Abramowitz, honored Starkes by presenting her with a certificate from the Department at the new child care facility at 3534 Winton Drive on Jacksonville's Northside.

The DCF's top official in Northeast Florida, David Abramowitz, honored Starkes by presenting her with a certificate from the Department at the new child care facility at 3534 Winton Drive on Jacksonville's Northside.

"This just goes to prove that our training just works and really it's the staff that are doing it that are taking care of our kids," Abramowitz said.

Starkes said, if she had to, she would do it again without hesitation.

First Coast News

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