Community Emergency Relief Fund giving workers peace of mind

Wednesday, July 4, 2018 8:11 PM
Community Emergency Relief Fund volunteer Kathy Devine, right, assists Ashlee Davis. Davis is one of many who picked up their CERF aid on Tuesday at the Bank of Colorado. More than $300,000 has been raised to assist those who lost wages or their job as a result of the 416 Fire.

A steady stream of residents who lost their job or wages because of the 416 Fire flowed into the Bank of Colorado earlier this week to pick up gift cards to pay for necessities, such as rent and gas.

The Community Emergency Relief Fund has raised more than $300,000 in donations and pledges as of Monday for residents in need, and The Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado has received about 150 applications from residents for aid, said Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the foundation. Almost all of those applications have been approved, she said.

The foundation is granting residents between $250 and $500 from CERF for rent and other necessities, including child care, groceries, gas and electricity bills.

“I don’t know what I would do without this,” Ashlee Davis said.

The longtime Silverton resident worked for about a month at The Shady Lady Saloon before the fire started. Since then, she has been working as a caretaker for an elderly couple and it hasn’t been enough to cover her expenses. She planned to use her CERF aid to catch up on her car insurance payments.

Davis said tourism hasn’t fully recovered in Silverton because only tour buses are coming through.

“As soon as the train starts running again, we’ll be fine,” she said.

The CERF volunteers at the impromptu desk in the bank helped other would-be tourism workers in need of aid, who thanked the volunteers for the community’s generosity and left with more peace of mind.

Among them was Brenna Travis, who was scheduled to start work at Purgatory on June 2, the day after the fire started. Instead, she has found some babysitting work, but it hasn’t been enough.

“This is really helpful ... it’s kind of like peace of mind,” she said of the aid. In the fall, the Fort Lewis College graduate will start work as a first grade teacher at Florida Mesa Elementary.

Seth Shank lost his job as a barista at 11th Street Station on Main Avenue as a result of the fire and has yet to find other work.

“It has definitely been hard,” Shank said.

Instead of getting another job, he has plans to start his own coffee business.

In the weeks since the fire started, Shank has been impressed by community efforts like CERF and residents opening up their homes.

“The community’s just been amazingly supportive,” he said.