Helping One Another in Times of Crisis
The idea of “community” includes many things, but one of the best is the idea of people pulling together to help one another. With the general outpouring of help offered to the victims of the recent Marshall fire, the immediate response was so overwhelming that officials had to send out a plea to stop sending food and clothing to shelters, police, and fire stations. The initial deluge has abated, and channels have been established to accept some kinds of food and physical item donations. Help is still needed, and fortunately there are a lot of ways to help.
Tremendous Outpouring of Support
The response to our neighbors’ misfortune in the Marshall fire has shown the best of Colorado: an abundance of generous support expressed in immediate, relevant, and material ways. According to Channel 7 News,1 over 43,000 people have already responded with donations of over $12 million for the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.2 The fund is managed by the Community Foundation Boulder County, in association with Colorado Gives and Network for Good. These organizations share a longstanding and clear reputation for effective community support, and are highly rated as effective charitable organizations.
Numerous individual fundraisers have been set up on GoFundMe, to the extent that the platform established a centralized vetting procedure to ensure that only legitimate fire-related causes get posted. As of a few days ago, the totals raised through GoFundMe for victims of the Marshall fire was over $18 million.
So, it’s All OK then?
Not at all. Families are struggling, many living in shelters or with family or friends, with untold challenges and years ahead to rebuild. No one will want to (or be able to) live in a shelter, on somebody’s couch, or with Aunt Minnie for all that time. Assistance from taxpayer dollars and insurance will not cover everything. Some of that assistance will be long and hard in coming, with mounds of paperwork to wade through. The need will be continuing for quite some time. Resources are stretched thin. We have a neighbor who works for FEMA, and when we heard she was called in for a crisis management we thought she would be up the road in Boulder. Nope. Remember the damage from tornadoes in Kentucky? She’s being sent there.
You Can Give Money
According to a story on Westword, GoFundMe “fquickly mobilized its crisis response team and began monitoring the platform for campaigns created for people affected by the fire. There’s now a centralized hub where would-be donors can identify fundraisers that have been verified by GoFundMe’s Trust & Safety team and have the GoFundMe Guarantee, which verifies the focus of the campaign and insures a 100 percent refund if there’s a problem.” 3 In addition to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund and GoFundMe drives, Donations to the Red Cross can be made at redcross.org/local/colorado.
You Can Give Goods and Supplies
Despite the publicized problems of officials being overwhelmed with too much in food and clothing to handle at first, there are still ways to help in this manner. The Community Foundation Boulder County, mentioned above, has listed ways that donations of material goods can still be helpful and will be appreciated. Thay can manage the inflow and have contacts with organizations that will avoid any “overflow” problems. For example, Sister Carmen Community Center is currently accepting donations of food (no-prep, easy-to-eat items only) and sleeping bags in good condition. They will also welcome donations of $100 gift cards to Walmart, Target, Costco, and local restaurants, as well as money donations. 4
Childcare, home goods, clothing and general assistance can be offered via these community organizing efforts, run by private citizens, that have been coordinated with the Community Foundation Boulder County: Marshall Fire Resources, Accommodation Assistance, Boulder County Fires – Assistance, and Marshall Fire Help. 5
And don’t overlook this easy one: you can make donations of useful items for temporary living conditions to local nonprofit thrift stores. Goodwill, in particular, is on it: “You can do your part to assist disaster victims by donating materials goods or clothing to a Goodwill agency in your area. Please call 800-GOODWILL or visit locator.goodwill.org to contact a local Goodwill near you to find out if they are assisting with relief efforts.” Many are. You can check with other thrift stores if you prefer; they may be planning to help as well.
What Else? There Are Lots of Ways to Help
These ways to help are quoted from The Denver Post, in an article published on January 6, 2021.6
Shelter. The Boulder Office of Emergency Management encourages people who can offer shelter to sign up to be a vetted host through the Airbnb Open Homes Program at airbnb.com/for-airbnb-org/how-to-host. You will be contacted, if needed.
Volunteer your time, services, materials. Boulder County has a simple online form that provides a way for you to contribute to relief efforts at bouldercounty.wufoo.com/forms/donations. Also, consider registering to volunteer your time at coloradoresponds.org/wildfires.
Household goods. Donations of household goods should be taken to local nonprofit thrift stores, according to the Office of Emergency Management.
Animals. If you can shelter a household pet, post a notice on the Boulder County Fire Lost and Found Pets page on Facebook.
If you can shelter a horse or livestock, post a notice on the Horse Evacuation Boulder Fort Collins Fire group on Facebook.
- thedenverchannel.com, “Millions raised in days for victims of Marshall Fire; some funds already being distributed” by Blair Miller, January 4, 2021
- Community Foundation Boulder County, Boulder County Wildfire Fund
- Westword.com, Fundraisers Spreading for Victims of December 30 Fire: Here’s How to Help” January 3, 2022
- Sister Carmen Community Center, 655 Aspen Ridge Drive, sistercarmen.org
- Community Foundation Boulder County, “How to Help and How to Get Help“
- The Denver Post, YourHub, “Community opens hearts to giving” January 6, 2021, by Tiney Ricciardi