Published: September 23, 2013
Four days after their first wedding anniversary, and only three months after moving into their home on 5 wooded acres northeast of Colorado Springs, Corey and Tiffany Hopkins lost everything to the Black Forest fire.
They had insurance, but - as too often happens - it wasn't enough to cover replacement of their 1960s home at today's construction prices.
The Hopkins are among 27 Black Forest families assisted by a $150,000 emergency grant from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, awarded in August to Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs. The individual grants, ranging from $4,000 to $20,000, are intended to help pay for needs "great and varied" that were not covered by insurance or FEMA, said Ann Shippy, who led the disaster response team at Family of Christ.
"This helps cover the gap for things like child care, business losses, tree removal, well drilling," said Shippy, who helped coordinate a team of 17 church volunteers to assess need and identify eventual grant recipients after the fire. "Many of these families were without insurance so this really was a blessing."
Though the Hopkins were the only Family of Christ congregation members to lose their home, they weren't the only ones to suffer losses during the fire. Once the need among the church family was met, the church extended assistance to the greater community, pastor David L. Dyer said.
"Once you've taken care of those needs, it's members' neighbors, co-workers, friends, the community at large," Dyer said. "We want to be God's hands and feet of mercy. How big can this be? As big as it needs to be."
Grants helped a pair of empty-nesters clear trees and remove scrap metal, a Mormon family deal with child care, and a single retiree drill a deeper well so she can rebuild on the fire-razed land that once housed her animal ministry.
Volunteer assessor Elizabeth Varney was even able to coordinate something of a replacement for a 90-year-old widow's cherished Hummel figures, family heirlooms purchased in Germany half a century ago. Varney put the word out and found a friend of a friend who was downsizing and seeking a good home for five of the collectible porcelain figurines, still in their original boxes. Varney wrapped each one and delivered them to the woman, along with a $600 grant to help her replace clothes and linens lost to the fire.
"(She) told me she has been opening one box a day and placing them on her table by her chair," Varney wrote in her assessment for the church, "and every time she looks at the little smiles she smiles."
The church plans to submit another grant request to the national governing body before summer's end to assist those still in need.
"We're still hearing about people needing help for the first time," Shippy said. "A lot of times people are in shock, and I think it's taken some folks a lot longer to talk about what they need."
Other Black Forest residents might be reluctant to come forward for other reasons, Dyer said.
"They don't know who to trust. There are charlatans out there. LCMS, we're in it for the long haul," he said, pointing out that church disaster relief workers still remain in Joplin, Mo., where a 2011 tornado killed 116 people. "It's become encouraging to know we aren't a little church out on our own. We're part of a bigger thing. We'll be there for you."
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364