By Briggen Wrinkle
The Community Foundation
The 416 Fire is on everybody's mind. Our community is in crisis.
Everyone's experience will be different. There are so many people working behind the scenes to make sure all of our neighbors are cared for. This week I participated in a collaborative effort with community leaders to cross pollinate resources, staff and expertise to support local businesses as well as individuals out of work due to the 416 Fire. The takeaway from the meeting was . Who needs help? Who wants to help?
First, how do we help the firefighters? We appreciate the firefighters who are risking their lives to keep us safe and we want to say thank you. However, the firefighters are supported by federal and state funds and, at this point, have all their needs covered. They do, however; appreciate community love. Say thank you if you see firefighters in town, create a sign to hang in front of your local business, get a group of friends to make signs and stand on a corner of a busy intersection during peak drive time to show your appreciation.
Be assured if the firefighters do need something, they will ask and we, as a community, will rally.
Next we talked about the people who no longer have a job - our neighbors, people we see every week at City Market or the dog park. How do we help those hourly wage workers at Purgatory, Rapp Corral, the Brown Bear Café in Silverton and many other local businesses?
Many of these people are already strapped because seasonal work was light this winter with less-than-average snowfall. There is little to no help from the Federal or State agencies for individuals.
If you want to help, the Community Foundation is currently accepting donations for the Community Emergency Relief Fund (CERF).
This fund is set up for broad-based community emergencies in Southwest Colorado. Our Advisory Committee is working with government agencies and local businesses to develop a strategy for vetting the needs and distributing the funds we raise. Our efforts will support local people and efforts related to the 416 Fire. Phase 1 is to raise $500,000, which will help 500-750 people in La Plata and San Juan counties with bridge funding immediate expenses for food, transportation and shelter.
The next area of focus for our collaborative is our local businesses. They need our support. Even as DATO (Durango Area Tourism Organization) scrambles to get the word out that Durango is open for business and we have a lot to offer visitors, we are hearing about the softening of our summer season. More now than ever, shop, dine and support local businesses.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) is setting up a Disaster Assistance Center at Escalante for businesses and individuals. DOLA will set up job referral services, insurance claim experts, housing options and mental health resources available from local agencies.
This collaborative is working on a website with resources and ways to make connections between what people need and what people can give.
It's time to make a move. Support your neighbors. If you need help, ask. If you want to help, give.
To donate to the Community Emergency Relief Fund, send a check to The Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1673, Durango, CO 81302 or donate online at www.swcommunityfoundation.org.