Fourmile Fire victims’ tremendous support

Rachel Newson, of Lafayette, sorts clothes donated for the Fourmile Fire victims on Sept. 10 at the Boulder County’s donation center at 3111 28th Street, Boulder.

As the Boulder County Fourmile Fire donation center at 3111 28th Street closes today and volunteers and victims are directed to the distribution center at 5395 Pearl Street, I reflect on the tremendous support I’ve witnessed for victims.

On Fri., Sept. 10, the first day the center was open, a small army arrived close to 8 a.m. Mormon Helping Hands volunteers wearing their yellow vests from Boulder and Longmont stakes, geographical subdivisions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, volunteers from other faiths, Army personnel of some sort, business associates and individuals set up tables. They posted signs to aid in sorting, received bags of donations, formed a “bucket brigade” to unload trucks, sorted clothes by age and gender and fulfilled many other tasks.

My first bags I helped with were filled with hygiene items. Someone even donated cosmetics. Then, I helped sort school supplies and clothes.

At first, donations came in slowly. However, by late morning, trucks and other vehicles arrived fast enough and with larger donations that we couldn’t keep up. I could only guess what happened after I left around 1 p.m.

I returned in the evening on Tues., Sept. 14, and found stacks of bagged donations on and under the tables. I felt concerned enough with the small number of volunteers that I called a friend. I told Shawn Boyd, a reporter for CBS Channel 4 in Denver, of the need for volunteers before she reported on the donation drive from the center for the 6 p.m. news. I was glad she mentioned it in her report.

That evening as I worked, I opened a big bag full of what looked like a guy’s favorite clothes fresh from the dryer. It looked like he cared enough to give the shirt off his back. Men’s shoes and work boots filled another bag. And, stacked high on the table were clothes in excellent condition for toddler girls. It looked like a mother had donated her two daughters’ clothes and bought more donations from a second-hand store as the tags were still attached. I felt tender feelings for this mother.

A light moment came when Kevin Rinnert, of Westminster, opened the case of a donated violin. Donations were to be checked, so he took it out. After a bit of joking around, Amanda Pagel, also of Westminster, joined him on another donated violin for a duet. (See the video below.)

With the center closing, I talked on the phone on Sept. 21 with Cathy Kissner, the Adventist Community Services and Disaster Response director of the relief effort. She said, “Donation-wise, we are right where we need to be.” She confirmed the continued need for volunteers and added furniture needs will be assessed later.

Then, Kissner said churches are needed in the next phase of the disaster relief effort. She said one way other communities have handled distribution is for several churches each to take over one day per week. Community groups have helped in this, too, she said.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I see this story as worthy of space in the Camera in an in-depth report that underscores the value of area churches in the relief effort. Many churches play a vital role in Boulder and outlying communities.

Volunteers for the Fourmile Fire victims, Kevin Rinnert and Amanda Pagel, both of Westminster, Colo., play a duet on donated violins at Boulder’s donation center on Sept. 14, 2010. See the bags of donated items yet to be sorted behind them.

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