Emergency help is available to employees affected by temporary closings of businesses damaged in the Newman Building fire Sunday.The Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado is opening the Community Emergency Fund, created in the wake of the 2008 fire in the 700 block of Main Avenue. Employees of Joel's, Colorado Pongas, Smelter's Coal Room and others are eligible if they have not found employment elsewhere.
The purpose of the fund is to assist with immediate needs in the wake of a community disaster, and the foundation's board of directors has deemed this an appropriate use of funds, Lon Erwin, the foundation's executive director, said in a news release Friday.
"The employees of these businesses are, in essence, now unemployed and may need assistance with living expenses and necessities over the next several months until their places of employment reopen," Erwin said.
Potential assistance includes gift cards or vouchers for food, gasoline and pharmacy needs for a maximum of three months. A one-time payment to assist with rent or a mortgage payment also is available.
"We are currently verifying employment of the affected businesses," said Bob Kunkel, the city of Durango's downtown business specialist who assists BID. "We hope the displaced employees can find new positions, as the fund is not a permanent 'fix.' We are, though, happy to be able to help."
The community originally raised more than $100,000 for the emergency fund after fire destroyed three downtown buildings in February 2008. About $30,000 is left.
The Community Foundation welcomes donations. Contributions are tax-deductible and should be made to Community Foundation with Community Emergency Fund in the memo line and mailed to Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1673, Durango, CO 81302. Credit card donations may be made on the foundation Web site, www.swcommunityfoundation.org.