MANITOU SPRINGS - Stepping up to help Manitou Springs' flood victims and calling on other town organizations to follow suit was the driving force behind the Manitou Springs Women's Group's first Chili Fundraiser Dinner, held Sunday at the Manitou Art Center.
The group sponsored the event with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation/Manitou Emergency Relief Fund, also a first for the organization whose representatives said is trying new ways to get involved in the community's recovery.
"This is very new to our group because we sponsored this event and didn't ask for any donations from local businesses," treasurer Dianna Tuttle said. "But we never thought we'd see fires and floods in Manitou Springs, either."
About six weeks ago, women's group member Sally Fitzgerald came up with the idea for the chili dinner and pitched it to the board. Fitzgerald, a member for nine years, said a few board members worried about financing the event, but most were excited to support it. and supported it.
"My thought is that everyone should do something for the town, and I'd like to inspire all other nonprofits to step up and do the same," Fitzgerald said. "We should take care of ourselves instead of waiting for government handouts."
Attendants paid $10 to indulge in all they could eat from large steaming pots of hearty green and red chili with all the trimmings of cheese, sour cream and green onions, as well as an assortment of baked desserts. Fitzgerald and her husband cooked 12 gallons of the red chili, while El Paso County wildland fire crew Chief Peter Wolf served up a huge batch of his famous green chili.
The fundraiser was a five-generation family affair for Wolf, who was accompanied by his wife, April Wolf, a training officer with the wildland fire crew and their three sons, Nicolas, 10, Liam, 9, and Brady, 5. The fire chief's mother, Gretchen Wolf, an incident finance trainee with the wildland fire crew, and his grandmother, 93-year-old Betty Schulp, helped laddle up chili. Peter Wolf and his family have lived in Monument since 1995; his grandmother's family moved to Manitou Springs in 1920, when Betty was three years old.
"It's important to help Manitou Springs so people can have money to build new homes," Liam said.
Gretchen Wolf, a member of the women's group for five years, said their contribution to the fundraiser was paid for by the Cochran Schulp Wolf Trust, a family trust that they use to help good causes.
Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder helped himself to a bowl of green chili and spoke highly of both the dinner and its meaning.
"After everything that Manitou Springs has been through, it's important for the community to be there for each other, especially in the long run," Snyder said.
Fitzgerald said she has every intention of organizing more events to encourage the community to step up. "We have all been hit so hard by the disasters of the last two years; the Waldo Canyon fire and the floods," she said. "This is just the beginning of a 10-year recovery process, so we have to get started."