A group of local restaurants, supermarkets and volunteers met the challenge to rescue the ones rescuing our community when, on a moment's notice, they were called upon to prepare and serve nearly 4,000 meals - dinner, breakfast and then a lunch - to Black Forest first responders.
The owners of McCabe's Tavern , Bite Me Gourmet Sausages and a long, long list of Colorado Springs restaurants and grocers such as Safeway and King Soopers pooled their resources and worked round-the-clock to feed the nearly 1,200 firefighters, first responders, National Guard troops and law enforcement personnel who have made camp at Pine Creek High School since the Black Forest Fire began last Tuesday.
Some of them had experience from last summer: Greg Howard , owner of McCabe's, and Bill Layton , owner of Bite Me Gourmet Sausages, had joined forces to serve up food during the Waldo Canyon Fire, along with Jason Hann, who co-founded a volunteer support services team in Colorado Springs.
Howard and Layton stepped up again this year and helped out with the lunch shift last Wednesday, the day after the fire started, and gave their contact information to Linda Holder, the Type 1 Team's Food Unit Leader.
Holder kept their business cards in her pocket. It was a good thing she did. The catering company in charge of feeding personnel at the Incident Command Center, Yellowstone Kelly's Catering from Billings, Mont., experienced electrical equipment malfunctions and had to be released from their contract. Out came those business cards.
"Early Thursday morning I got a call from Linda and she asked me if we were still willing to help," Layton said, visibly exhausted Monday morning at the Incident Command Center. "I said of course we were. She told me they needed dinner on Sunday for 1200, breakfast Monday morning for 1200, and 1500 sack lunches that had to be ready by 5 a.m. Monday."
Without hesitation, Layton got in touch with Howard, Hann and as many sources as he could pull together.
"I know people and I know logistics," Layton said.
Sunday night was the airing of the episode of "Rock My RV," a show on the Travel Channel, in which Layton's Bite Me Gourmet Sausages was featured. They used the celebration as a way to bring in as many volunteers as possible, using Facebook, Twitter and all their contacts to rally help.
"We have about 1,000 members in our organization, they're all very community-oriented and involved, it's easy to ask for help," Hann said. "We had more than 30 people show up at McCabe's within an hour's notice."
Layton barely made it to McCabe's to watch the unveiling of his own RV, as the tavern was already filled with people standing in an assembly line, packing sack lunches.
"I'm the guy everyone sees, but there's an army of people helping out behind us," Layton said. "The energy in the room was awesome."
Volunteers worked through Sunday night and into Monday.
On Monday morning at the Incident Command Center, everyone showed clear signs of exhaustion setting in, but spirits were high and smiles were easy to come by. Holder, the food unit's leader, said the breakfast service that began at 5 a.m. surpassed everyone's expectations.
"We had quite the assortment, from scrambled eggs, to Potatoes O'Brien, breakfast burritos and tons of coffee," Holder said. "I think they cooked 155 pounds of bacon. I've never seen so much bacon in my life."
Linda Guietti, Layton's sister, said they had been brewing coffee all night and all day.
"I think we've served about 400 gallons of coffee," she said, sipping from a steamy mug of joe.
After successfully serving dinner, breakfast and lunch to nearly 1200 men and women, Layton was ready to get some rest and let Big Sky Mobile Catering, from Missoula, Mont., take over food operations at the Incident Command Center.
Even as need for their help came to an end, Holder said Howard, Layton, Hann and everyone involved with them were a shining example of the way Colorado Springs comes together during a crisis.
"It's heartwarming, it makes you want to cry," Holder said. "The way everyone pitches in, people have constantly been dropping off food and anything we have needed. It's incredible."
CONTRIBUTORS, HELPERS AND VOLUNTERS
The Inn at Palmer Divide
Paravicini’s Italian Bistro
Jake and Telly’s
The Club at Flying Horse
On the Border
Front Range BBQ
Coquette Bistro and Bakery
Barista Espresso Roasters
South Side Johnny’s
Bite Me Gourmet Sausages
Bill and Sally Layton
Alan and CeCe Beauchamp