Some freebees for fire victims still awaiting a home



bottled water
  • stevendepolo

During the Waldo Canyon Fire, many charities collected items for the victims.

Donations included water, food, clothes, shoes, diapers, toys, furniture, kitchen appliances, dog crates, pet food and basic household items. You know, everything but the kitchen sink. (On second thought, I'm pretty sure they would have taken the sink, too.)

Anyway, for most of us the fire is now just a painful memory, and the victims have, at the very least, found temporary housing. So where is all the stuff? Did people really claim all of it?

The simple answer is no. As explained in an earlier article, many of the larger charities indicate in the small print that leftover items will go to some other worthy cause. But some local charities were quite serious when they committed to send every item donated to people affected by the fire. And they've stood by their word.

Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado is probably the best example. During Waldo, it collected more than 1.6 million pounds of food. To put that in perspective, all the charity's food drives last year brought in just 400,000 pounds of food.

Asked if Care and Share had any policy that would allow Waldo food to eventually go to the needy if unclaimed by victims, spokesperson Shannon Coker said, "I think that would be an effective way of collecting donations, but we did not do that.”

Instead the food bank has held "farmers markets" where victims have picked up food. Care and Share expects to run out of the food by the end of the month, but still has plenty of water: about 500,000 pounds of it. Coker says the charity will continue to supply the water to victims and first responders until it runs out.

“We’ll have excess water," she said, "that’s the one thing we’ll have plenty of.”

Over at Discover Goodwill, the story is a little different. For a while after Waldo, Goodwill had a showroom with goods that had been donated for victims. Spokesperson Brad Hafer says victims initially wanted clothes and shoes; as they got more settled, there was a big need for furniture and kitchen appliances.

But donations didn't always align with needs. So Goodwill used its voucher system. Basically, if you bring in five pairs of pants for victims, Goodwill staff will look them over and determine their value. They'll then sell the pants in one of their thrift stores. If a Waldo Canyon victim comes in needing some items, he or she will be issued a voucher, then can go to one of the Goodwill stores to pick out whatever's needed.

Hafer says vouchers have prevented Goodwill from having a storeroom full of stuff nobody wants, while allowing the victims to pick out whatever they need, whether that's pants or an area rug.

So far, more than 1,500 vouchers, worth about $50,000, have been issued to about 3,000 individuals and families. That's about 90 percent of Goodwill's total donations, but there are still vouchers available. Victims can call Donna at 243-0511 to set up an appointment.

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