January 21, 2014 Updated: January 21, 2014 at 6:11 pm
A communications expert, a web guru, an insurance man, a business man, a construction manager and a homeowner who lost his house in the Waldo Canyon fire were honored by Mayor Steve Bach on Tuesday for their work with the nonprofit group Colorado Springs Together.
Bach made the recognition during his monthly press conference.
Colorado Springs Together was the organization that spearheaded plans to offer assistance to victims of the Waldo Canyon Fire, which burned 347 homes in the summer of 2012.
During the first six months after the Waldo Canyon fire, 80 permits were issued to rebuild homes, and progress has been steady since then, said Bob Cutter, who headed up the volunteer organization, "We stand today with 191 homes, out of 347 lost, completed, and we have another 60 under construction. And we are still seeing building permits being issued at a rate of five per month," Cutter said.
He described a small volunteer army of hundreds of people working to help others with insurance claims, blast out the latest news and get shrubs and trees back into the burned-out terrain.
Bach said he turned to his friend Cutter in the days after the fire started and asked for help. He said he felt confident in the plan to put out the fire.
"But I knew there was a missing piece: How do we help 347 households who have lost everything and many others who were damaged, and all that would entail," Bach said.
Six people emerged as leaders in the organization, and Bach gave them his "Spirit of the Springs Award."
John Henry jumped in as the point man for public relations for the organization, Cutter said.
"He taught me more about communication than I ever wanted to know," he said.
Henry distributed an email with updates that was opened by 540,000 viewers.
John Putnam was the resident insurance expert, Cutter said. He provided insurance consulting to more than 200 families.
"It's a tribute to John that we ended up in the December time frame with 90 percent of insurance claims settled as we rolled into 2013," Cutter said.
Alan Hale provided financial assistance to the Colorado Springs Together organization and then ended up working on the replanting of shrubs and trees throughout the Mountain Shadows neighborhood.
"If you tour through the neighborhood today, you can see what an incredible result has been achieved," Cutter said.
Ron Hehr lost his home in the fire. He drove the campaign that encouraged local businesses to give from 20 to 30 percent discounts to Mountain Shadows homeowners. One homeowner said he saved more than $30,000, Cutter said.
Mike Mallon, a former construction manager, advised residents and home builders.
Jeff Thomas, co-founder of Web 2.0 platform company Invertual, gave Colorado Springs Together 30 days of free web design service.
"The website was up and running in one week," Cutter said. "From the time we got going, we've had 35,000 discrete visitors to the website and the e-blast was opened by 540,000 - that website got a lot of traffic."
Bach called the organization the "greatest coming together in this community" he's ever seen.