Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

WALDO CANYON FIRE: Unprecedented generosity in Springs

BARBARA COTTER Updated: July 2, 2012 at 12:00 am

The generosity of people in Colorado Springs can be measured in the cans of green beans, boxes of macaroni and cheese and bags of rice piling up at Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.

Since the Waldo Canyon Fire erupted on June 23, the nonprofit has received 1 million pounds of food — the most ever for a food drive. The previous record was 130,000 pounds, President and CEO Lynne Telford said Monday at a news conference to announce the record-breaking collection and thank Care and Share’s partner agencies.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Telford said. “For our High Park Fire drive, we were so proud of getting 13,000 pounds of food.”

Care and Share has received so much food because of the Waldo Canyon Fire, in fact, it’s had to find off-site storage.

“It’s a welcome problem to have,” said Shannon Coker, Care and Share’s community relations director.

Many agencies that have been pitching in to meet the needs of firefighters, emergency workers, evacuees and people who lost homes also report an almost unprecedented outpouring of support.  A victims assistance fund that started last week with $125,000 from the El Pomar Foundation brought in $29,000 on Monday alone, and about $54,000 in three days, said J.D. Dallager, CEO and president of Pikes Peak United Way, which is administering the fund.

“That’s impressive,” Dallager said. “The response has been crescendoing.”
Catherine Barde, spokeswoman for the Pikes Peak chapter of the American Red Cross, said it’s too early to tally how much has been donated, but agreed that people are going above and beyond to help.

“We have a group of kids doing lemonade stands all over town,” she said.

At Care and Share, the food has been going to sites that feed firefighters and emergency workers, to shelters, to people who have had to relocate or have lost wages, and to former evacuees who lost food when their power went out. Coker knows that many people affected by the fire can afford to buy food, but that’s not the point.

“It’s not hunger relief in the traditional sense, but the community we live in wants people to know they’re supported,” Coker said. “We’re fulfilling the obligation to the donor.”

While appreciative of all the canned foods, bottled water, lip balm, socks and other hard goods that have been donated, officials with several agencies, including Care and Share, say the biggest way to help now is by donating money that can go toward long-term assistance or be used for targeted purchases.

“Basically, a cash donation gives us the ability to be more agile,” said Laine Hendricks, spokewoman for the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services.

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