Bret and Amber Tueller
To The Rescue
Photo Credit: Newsweek
The Marshall Fire and storm system that blew through the Boulder area on the 30th of December destroyed 1,084 homes with 149 damaged. These numbers include those that were damaged by fire or severe winds that occurred in the last few days of 2021. Families left without a home were scattered various ways. About 1,200 families lived with friends and family in the metro area for the first week or more. Some families also stayed in shelters. PHOTO CREDIT TO BOULDER COUNTY While speaking with Micki Trost, Strategic Communications Director for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Noah McCord, Volunteer Emergency Liaison, they shared some details about the recovery. On January 4th, the state of Colorado opened a relief facility at the request of Boulder County. The Marshall Fire Donation and Resource Center is operated by the Adventist Community Services Disaster Relief group, who specialize in donations management. The state went through a purchasing process to lease the vacant space in the Flat Iron Crossing Mall where previously a Nordstrom department store had been.
PHOTO CREDIT TO CENTER FOR DISASTER PHILANTHROPY
The space and storage available at this facility are above and beyond a typical emergency center. Often piles of donations may be spread out in a high school gym. The shelves, racks, and square footage at the Flat Iron Mall have provided not only organization for material goods and food, but an area for neighbors to gather to see each other and to seek emotional and spiritual support.
The Relief Center opened on January 10th. Accepting and sorting of items began simultaneously to stock the space with goods to provide to victims. To begin with,
300 volunteers per day were engaged in processing, sorting, and stocking. Since February 80 volunteers a day have been at the center. The initial newsletter sent from Colorado Responds garnered 22,000 registered volunteers in the system. People came from all over the state to help the people of the Boulder area. Spark the Change Colorado is the state’s volunteer management registry. After disaster events they can open a coordinated sign-up for multiple organizations that want to get the word out to everyone through this one list.
The center has processed 2,800 pallets of donations since its opening, totaling 125,000 articles.$25,000 in gift cards have been donated and distributed. Victims have been encouraged to come and take anything they need. There have been 1,161 families registered at the center, including those laid off from local businesses due to impact from the fire and those that were affected by smoke damage to many of the soft goods in their homes. Individual visits to the center have reached 5000.
With past experience, Noah shared how the initial needs of people shift through the recovery process. In the first few weeks after disaster their needs include food, clothing, and bedding. Months later, the needs change to kitchen appliances, furniture, and longer-term items.
All this is in an effort to set up a temporary home during the rebuilding process.
Voluntary organizations that have worked with the donation center offer multiple services to help families above and beyond the donations. These include Boulder County Health and Human services, nonprofit services, social services and disaster-specific case work services like food stamp enrollment or unemployment services. They have reached out to communities to be sure impacted members have access to all the services offered at the facility. The donation center will be open through April 30, 2022.
The two key messages that Micki and Noah wanted to emphasize are first, to register through the volunteer system. Go to coloradoresponds.org to see volunteer opportunities that will help with long term recovery like providing meals, emotional and physical care, as well as physical rebuilding. The second message is that financial donations have the most impact because they can meet the specific needs of the fire survivors. Money can be donated both at coloradoresponds.org or through the Boulder County community fund to continue to help families through the next 18 months.