El Paso County Sheriff's Deputies direct evacuees at the corner of Black Forest and Shoup roads in Black Forest on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)
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Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette

El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputies direct evacuees at the corner of Black Forest and Shoup roads in Black Forest on June 11, 2013.

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Two new funds aim to better prepare the Pikes Peak region for its next disastrously rainy or fiery day.

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation announced the creation this week of the El Paso and Teller County Emergency Relief Funds. They'll be credible, ever-present funds for donations during the next major wildfire, flood or other disaster, said Gary Butterworth, CEO of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.

"It’s not an if, it’s a when," Butterworth said. "We hope we don’t need to activate it for a long time. But it will happen at some point.”

The two funds come as communities across the nation grapple with how best to raise money and help victims in the wake of increasingly severe and common disasters, he said. Communities in Texas and California that were ravaged by catastrophic flooding and wildfires have urged philanthropic organizations across the nation to begin preparing for their own disasters by establishing such funds, he said.

After a mass shooting in Orlando, for example, more than a dozen GoFundMe pages were established — leaving donors unsure about where to donate and which fundraising campaigns were legitimate.

The latest funds for El Paso and Teller counties aim to eliminate such confusion, Butterworth said.

"For those who are compelled to give financial resources, we want to be ready to accept them at any time," he said. "And people who want to give, we can provide them a safe and credible, trusted place to make an investment. And then ensure that those who give know that we’ll be responsible in the distribution and supporting the recovery efforts for victims and organizations who serve those people.”

Previously, the foundation oversaw one fund for both counties, the Emergency Relief Fund of the Pikes Peak Region. The decision to create two funds stemmed from a desire to better target grants to the areas where donations were received.

The funds will only be used for “a municipally declared emergency or disaster,” Butterworth said, such as disasters where local leaders seek formal emergency declarations that make state or federal funds available. Often, they are on the scale of the Waldo Canyon or Black Forest fires, which killed four people, destroyed hundreds of houses and burned tens of thousands of acres of trees.

Amid each fire, the Pikes Peak United Way and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation managed campaigns that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the future, those efforts will run through the foundation's new fundraising accounts, Butterworth said.

The United Way, which operates the area's 211 hotline, and the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management are partners with the foundation in creating the fund.

The El Paso County fund already has about $50,000 of residual donations to the old emergency fund. The Teller County fund doesn't have any money yet.

To learn more about the fund, visit ppcf.org/relief.

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