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Red Cross counts on generosity of local business when disaster hits

By: Susan Joy Paul
October 5, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2016 at 12:41 pm
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Red Cross volunteers offer comfort and bring supplies to victims of the Black Forest Fire in June 2013. This summer, volunteers showed up to provide similar support for those battling the Hayden Pass Fire. Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado

When the American Red Cross responded to the Hayden Pass Fire this summer, Bill Fortune wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of support.


“People in Cañon City reached out to help. Safeway stepped up, hardware stores jumped in and people from Salida contacted us to help,” said Fortune, communications specialist for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado. “The first couple of days we fed firefighters, which allowed them to keep doing the work that they were doing. We also provided coordination with local government and were embedded in the emergency operation centers on both sides of the fire.”


While the Red Cross depends on its disaster relief fund to provide speedy emergency responses, area businesses also get involved.


“On short notice, it’s often the small local business that supports us,” Fortune said.


Businesses support the Red Cross during emergencies and with disaster prevention and preparedness.


“Hardware stores have been very helpful. They lend us power screwdrivers, for example, for our fire campaign, so we can install a hundred smoke detectors in one day,” Fortune said, noting that large companies make contributions on a national level and local stores provide more direct support.


Kyle Reynolds, general manager of the Home Depot at Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard, said his store receives 20-30 requests for donations from various organizations every week, and the store can’t always help.


“We don’t make cash donations, but we can provide products, and that’s what we do for the Red Cross,” he said. “Sometimes it’s pallets of water; for example the five stores here in Colorado Springs and Monument donated 20 pallets for Fountain and Security when they needed clean water. During the Black Forest Fire ... we provided shovels, rakes and other tools to help clean up and get places in order.”


Home Depot also pitches in with man hours when they can.


“We’ve gone out with associates on our days off and helped people clean up,” said Reynolds, who acknowledged supporting the Red Cross is an easy decision. “With the Red Cross, we know that whatever we donate ... it’s going to help people in need.”


Fortune said businesses that want to help should get on the Red Cross list of supporting organizations or just reach out. “We do get restaurants that will just call and say, ‘Hey, I want to give you a hundred meals,’” he said.


Individual volunteers are also crucial to Red Cross success, like Disaster Action Team Captain and Case Work Supervisor Cori Tanner.


“The fact is, none of us is Mother Teresa and we have to get something out of this, so if we can be passionate about our volunteering we will stick with it and not get burned out,” Tanner said. “You can give as much or as little as you want to the Red Cross, but a lot of us find it feels so good to be doing what we love that we kind of get sucked in.”

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