Volunteers continue fire recovery efforts

Organizations willing to stay on for the long term

Rob Carrigan
Black Forest Regional Park
Norma Engelberg
Posted

Colorado’s most destructive and second most costly wildfire to date, the Black Forest fire, started at about 1 p.m. on June 11 one year ago. By the time containment was reached on June 20, two people died, 14,280 acres burned and 486 homes and other properties were destroyed at a cost of $420.5 million, according to new estimates issued on June 5 by the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

The association’s estimated cost of $453.7 million for the Waldo Canyon fire places it as Colorado’s most costly fire — for now.

Statistics can’t tell the full story but the hundreds of volunteers helping the recovery are listening to those who are working to rebuild their homes, their lives and their forest.

The El Paso County Black Forest Fire Assistance page, www.elpasoco.com/pages/SafetyandAssistance.aspx, lists a number of organizations that have shouldered the work of assisting those affected by the fire and are in for the long haul; full recovery is going to take a long time.

One of the lead volunteer organizations is Black Forest Together Inc. This nonprofit, which was founded by Edward and Nancy Bracken six days after the fire, is a member of Colorado Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Its goal is to “facilitate and coordinate a quick and effective rebuilding process ... ”

“Last year we were learning the ropes,” said volunteer Jay Matheson. “We’ve moved into a new office and we all have a year of experience behind us. We’re focusing not only on rebuilding and restoration but also forest management; looking to the future to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

Black Forest Together is one of five organizations that will break ground on a new park at the Old Log School from 2 to 4:30 p.m. June 11. The park is scheduled for completion and commemoration on Aug. 16. The brochure advertising the June event lists almost 60 agencies, organizations and churches that have been involved in helping Black Forest residents.

The organization needs volunteers to coordinate 8 to 10 member teams from across the country that are participating in its Summer Volunteer Program in Forestry Teams. It is also working with Lutheran Family Services to help about 80 families and individuals that were uninsured or underinsured.

The organization’s Community Resource Center operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays at 11580 Black Forest Road. For more information, call 719-495-2445, email blackforesttogether@gmail.com or visit www.blackforesttogether.org.

The idea for Black Forest Crosses For Losses came up when founders Amanda and Nathan Davis cleared shrubbery around her mother’s home. Faced with a bundle of sticks and a lot of neighbors who needed help, they made crosses for use as fundraisers. Soon neighbors were making crosses and, better yet, making donations.

The organization continues to embody a neighbors-helping-neighbors attitude, bringing together community resources to provide food, household and clothing assistance to individuals and families.

The organization works directly with El Paso County Commissioner Daryl Glenn as the point of contact for coordinating burn area site visits, and community outreach meetings. For information call the Davises at 719-235-2810, 719-494-6584 or 719-495-8831 or email Crosses4Losses@hotmail.com.

The Crosses for Losses office is at 12490 Black Forest Road.

High Plains Helping Hands food pantry started up in 2006 in eastern El Paso County.

“There were only two small organizations out there, one in Ellicott and one in Calhan,” said Helping Hands Director Rose Mizer. “We saw a lot of need that these small organizations just weren’t big enough to fill.”

In 2011, the food pantry moved and now operates out of the Mountain Springs Church Woodmen Campus, 7345 Adventure Way, in Colorado Springs southeast of the intersection of Black Forest Road and Woodmen Road.

The pantry accepts food, hygiene and monetary donations and serves people living in the following zip codes: 80808, 80828, 80830, 80831, 80832, 80833, 80835, 80864, 80923 and portions of 80908. It also distributes food to families in zip codes 80924, 80928 and 80930 who were displaced by the Black Forest Fire.

Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Bring proof of address. For additional information, call Mizer at 719-495-3123 or visit www.highplainshelpinghands.com.

Helping Everyone Recover organized the Black Forest Marketplace in Palmer Lake and offers “Free Shopping” to displaced families that need furniture and home items. The organization is accepting gently used or new items for distribution.

Donation and “Free Shopping” hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and their “shop is at 850 No. B Commercial Lane in Palmer Lake. Bring identification and proof of address such as a utility or phone bill. More information is available by calling 719-235-6984 or email HER_colorado@hotmail.com.

Discover Goodwill is providing essential items vouchers for those affected by the fire at all 20 Colorado Springs Discover Goodwill locations. Goodwill’s administrative building is at 1460 Garden of the Gods Road. For additional information, call 719-867-1118. To receive vouchers as a Black Forest resident, Discover Goodwill requires a photo identification card.

Disasters can’t be entirely eliminated: there will be droughts, lightning will strike and tornadoes and floods will happen. However, many are learning that with enough planning and help from volunteers, disasters can be mitigated. Those wishing to volunteer can sign up at with local nonprofits or they can visit www.helpcoloradonow.org.