Waldo Canyon fire fund makes final disbursements

BARBARA COTTER Updated: January 7, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: January 7, 2013

The hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to a fund established in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fire has all been disbursed, with the last distribution of about $125,000 going to two nonprofits for flood mitigation work.

In the six months since the fire erupted on June 23, the Waldo Canyon Fire Assistance Fund handed out about $940,300 to 18 nonprofits to address an array of short- and intermediate-term needs.

Much of the money went to human service organizations to provide fire victims with rental and utilities assistance, clothing, household goods and other necessities. Some donations also went to replenish nonprofits’ coffers that were emptied when they provided crisis services to evacuees and their pets.

The final disbursement provided $50,000 to The Navigators and about $76,000 to the Coalition for the Upper South Platte for flood mitigation efforts in the burn scar area. The Coalition for the Upper South Platte also received about $24,000 in an earlier disbursement, making it one of two nonprofits to receive more than one grant from the fund.

“I think the thought was that, with $125,000 left, how can the committee make the most impact, and longest-lasting impact? And flood mitigation is one way we felt we could do that,” fund coordinator Preston Briggs said Monday. “Should we get a significant amount of rain in the Springs, we’d definitely see a lot more damage — possibly something that would equate to a second disaster.”

The El Pomar Foundation established the fund with a $125,000 seed grant that quickly ballooned through an unprecedented outpouring of community support. A fundraising concert held about a week after the fire blew up on June 26 brought in about $300,000.

The fire, which started June 23, blackened more than 18,000 acres, killed two people and destroyed 346 homes in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. It was the most destructive fire in Colorado history.

An 11-person committee, including a Mountain Shadows homeowner and people with experience in disaster relief, reviewed grant applications from nonprofits in El Paso and Teller counties, and determined the recipients.

Some donors and people affected by the fire criticized how the money was disbursed, saying it should have gone directly to the fire victims. But United Way officials said they wanted to reduce opportunities for scam artists to get their hands on the money by funneling the donations to nonprofits with experience in vetting clients.

A six-month status update on the fund’s impact is expected to be released next month, with a final report due in September that will detail how the grant recipients used the money.

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