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Brightening the corners


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Ever since the Waldo Canyon Fire began engulfing the west end of El Paso County last Saturday, the media have been busy covering the major nonprofits that have responded.

Most everyone knows about the good work being done by the Norris-Penrose Event Center, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross, Pikes Peak United Way, Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, and Discover Goodwill.

But the big players aren't the only ones reaching out in this crisis. Smaller nonprofits have helped ease pressure on larger ones, and addressed a host of niche issues. Here are a few standouts.

The Resource Exchange

418 S. Weber St., 380-1100,

In an evacuation situation, few face more challenges than those with disabilities.

Before Manitou Springs was evacuated Sunday, David Ervin's Resource Exchange staff of about 135 were making arrangements for 36 clients who lived in the path of the fire. They placed all of them, meaning no one had to stay in their main office, which they'd set up as a contingency shelter.

Still, the executive director knows his clients aren't out of the woods, since the fire continues to spread. "The challenge for us moving forward is to watch the track of the fire and to try and predict evacuations before they're called for," Ervin says.

Being able to evacuate calmly is key for many people with disabilities, who Ervin says "tend to not deal with change very well." The Resource Exchange is also making its behavioral health staff available to clients who may have trouble dealing with the stress of the situation.

All Breed Rescue & Training

20 Mount View Lane, Suites B & C, 264-6460,

Since most hotels and motels (and many friends and family members) often ban pets, many evacuees have sought safe places for theirs. And the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region has been so swamped with evacuees that as of this writing, it had very limited space to take on more animals.

But several smaller organizations — from animal hospitals to pet groomers to shelters — have stepped up to assist. Among them is All Breed Rescue & Training, which began taking animals Saturday afternoon. As of this writing, it had welcomed 36 adoptable dogs from the Humane Society, so the bigger shelter could create more room for evacuees. It's also accepted evacuee pets directly from owners.

Cats here have been cuddled. Dogs have had walks and pool time. Staff built one group of five cats from the same evacuee a special cat house, so they could stay together, reducing their stress.

"We're working hard to make sure everybody is taken care of the way we would want our animals taken care of," says office manager Sara Simon.

That includes keeping animals that sound wheezy — a sign of possible kennel cough — separate from the healthy ones.

All Breed has received lots of volunteer help, but it needs money. Feeding volunteers and transporting animals gets expensive, and during the fire All Breed's normal fund-generating operations are shut down.

In better times, All Breed keeps adoptable animals with foster families and uses its offices for obedience classes; with animals taking over the office space, the classes are suspended.

Silver Key Senior Services

2250 Bott Ave., 884-2300,

Lorri Orwig, director of resource development, is happy to report that Silver Key's Meals on Wheels program is still working for its older and elderly clientele. Staffers have called clients to keep track of where they're staying, and what help they need, whether it be rides, donated food or other services.

But the evacuees haven't been the only ones affected by the fire, Orwig notes. Low-income seniors — most of whom haven't needed to evacuate — are in desperate need of fans and air conditioners. Silver Key would like to help, if they can get the equipment donated.

"Because we're having such record high heat, we're telling people they need to keep cool however they can, but we're also telling them they need to keep their windows closed because of the ash and smoke," Orwig explains. She adds, "For the most part, [our clients are] living in homes without air conditioning."

Pikes Peak Library District

Multiple locations, 531-6333,

While the Ute Pass library branch in Cascade has closed for the fire, the Pikes Peak Library District has helped in other ways, spokesperson Travis Duncan says.

For starters, the Penrose Library has been offering extended hours to accommodate evacuees, many of whom are using library computers to sign up for programs, read the news and contact loved ones. PPLD also has donated books to evacuees at the Cheyenne Mountain High School shelter, and set up a laptop lab there. As of Monday evening, 12 computers there had been in constant use since the night before.

"Our laptops helped approximately 20 people register for the Red Cross Safe and Well program that we set as the homepage, and easily 40 to 50 others used the laptops to look up fire information for their homes and local areas," says Clifton Medford, IT technician at PPLD. "There were also plenty of Facebook updates to let their friends and family know they were safe."


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