We wrote not long ago about how, as a tourist town, we are all in our recovery from the wildfire together.
And the community has shown that we were not wrong.
You have stepped up in various ways – offering to take in evacuated friends and pets, volunteering time, donating food and money, supporting local businesses and making signs to thank first responders. It’s difficult sometimes to quantify all the ways a community comes together during an emergency such as the 416 Fire.
But this week we learned some details of one big example: Donations and pledges to the Community Emergency Relief Fund have topped $300,000 in less than a month. That puts the fund well on its way to the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado’s goal of $500,000.
Already it is the most ever raised by the fund, which was created during the 2008 fire that hit several downtown businesses, including Seasons Rotisserie and Grill. The fund is activated during emergencies such as fires and the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill.
Much of the money raised this summer will go to fulltime hourly workers who lost their tourism-related jobs because of the fire, or who lost wages because their hours were severely reduced. Many of them also were evacuated.
Some of those people started picking up the gift cards this week that will help them pay rent or utilities, buy groceries or cover other necessities. Most of the nearly 150 people who have applied for assistance so far have been approved, and they will receive up to $500.
People who were collecting their assistance this week told the Herald that the money was helping them pay unpaid bills, and perhaps would tide them over until they can get another job and get back on their feet.
The money came from people just like them – members of the community. Some has been raised – and still is being raised – at specific fundraisers. More was chipped in during pass-the-hat actions at community events. Individuals and businesses have sent checks or donated online.
With the 416 and Burro fires still burning, we know the needs of Southwest communities are likely to continue to grow. We know recovery will be an ongoing process for the people impacted, as well as for the mountains and forests.
But we also know that this community is setting a wonderful example of what it means to come together and help in a time of need.
We don’t see that changing at all.