Megan Ledin wins emergency response award, credits community
For Sky-Hi News
Two unprecedented experiences have tested the resiliency of Grand County over the last 2 years: the COVID-19 pandemic and the East Troublesome Fire, and the Grand Foundation has stepped in to assist residents and businesses recover from these events and be better prepared for the next challenge. With the guidance of Executive Director Megan Ledin, the Grand Foundation has been an invaluable resource for the county during troubling times, and recently the Colorado Emergency Management Association (CEMA) recognized her work when it presented her with the Public/Private Partnership Award.
CEMA represents and supports emergency management organizations, and although emergency management wasn’t the Grand Foundation’s initial purpose, took the helm during two of the county’s biggest disasters in history.
“Twenty-twenty changed our mantra of who we were, so we could support the community’s needs and become more overarching,” Ledin told the Sky-Hi News recently. The Grand Foundation is a philanthropic organization that raises funds to support local nonprofits. While they have continued to do this, they stepped into a new role when the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We created Covid assistance funds to administer the federal CARES dollars to individuals and small businesses,” Ledin said.
At the height of the pandemic, the Grand Foundation also assisted Jackson County and Clear Creek County to disperse money to their residents. Ledin credits the Grand Foundation Board for their response to COVID-19. “I’m really proud of our board. They stepped up…to give me the latitude to help our community,” she said.
On the night the East Troublesome Fire tore through the community in the midst of the pandemic, the Grand Foundation sprang into action again, creating the Grand County Wildfire Emergency Fund, which, since then has grown to $4 million and provided $2.8 million to victims of the fire. “Out of the 384 homes that were lost, 161 were primary homes,” said Ledin. Twenty-five of those were uninsured, and a vast majority were underinsured. Renters who lived there year-round also occupied many of the second homes in the area.
“We worked with everyone who was affected by the fire, including renters and homeowners. More than just facilitating and administering dollars, we also became coordinators of individual case management, volunteer management, and construction management,” said Ledin.
On top of this, the director for the county’s Office of Emergency Management was filled 7 days after the fire began, so the Grand Foundation also shouldered some of this duty the first week.
“The impetus for the Public/Private Partnership Award was the amount of work our community foundation did, which normally might be done by other people,” Ledin said. “During a disaster or emergency…the county will hire case managers to deal with (residents) affected by the fire. Since our county didn’t have case management at that time, we filled that role.”
When wildfires hit other communities, the communities may receive individual assistance through FEMA. At the time of the East Troublesome Fire, FEMA was only allocating $3,000 per person. Since the Grand Foundation could allocate more than that, they also funded individual assistance.
“There’s so much we did as a result of already having the dollars…so we started (funding the needs of local partners) right away,” Ledin said. The Grand Foundation was already working with organizations such as the Grand County Wildfire Council for hazardous tree removal and fire mitigation, so those organizations didn’t use FEMA’s programs. Almost everything was accomplished at the local level.
The Grand Foundation also funded Southern Colorado Baptist Disaster Relief’s debris removal program. “They came in from the front range and provided labor at no cost, and we paid for their lodging and equipment rentals,” Ledin said. “We had a great partnership with them, and we’re working with them this spring when they come out for debris removal again.”
There is still much work to be done post-fire. Fortunately, the Office of Emergency Management has a new director, Joel Cochran. The Grand Foundation has also hired a new case manager, Rachel Kindsvatter, to work one-on-one with residents as they continue to assist with recovery efforts.
“I still talk to homeowners every day,” Ledin said. She added that there are also residents who haven’t yet contacted the foundation for assistance with rebuilding costs. She hopes that in spring, more residents will be looking to rebuild. “Out of those 384 homes that were lost, as of March, we’ve only had 95 building permits issued,” she said. The Grand Foundation has been working with the Grand County Builders Association to help with building code upgrades and costs.
“For years to come, we’re going to be working with people….because this is a marathon, not a sprint,” Ledin said. “We’ve created an emergency assistance fund, so if another disaster should happen again we can help people in the future too.”
Although Ledin was the sole recipient of the award on behalf of the Grand Foundation, she was quick to lend praise to everyone who assisted in the county’s recovery from both the pandemic and wildfire.
“I’m only one person, and one person can only do so much. Did I put in a lot of hours? Absolutely. But we all did,” Ledin said. “We stepped up as a community and asked, “what can we do to support the people who were affected by this crisis?’”
Ledin explained that while the Grand Foundation held the monies for pandemic and wildfire assistance, some of it went to organizations offering other services. “So many organizations we partnered with…care and are passionate,” Ledin said. The Grand Foundation dispersed funds to the Grand County Wildfire Council (GCWC), Mountain Family Center (MFC), Outbreak of Kindness, Middle Park Conservation District, and more.
Ledin especially wanted to recognize the efforts of MFC. In addition to funding, the Grand Foundation also offered MFC new Patagonia clothing to give to fire victims. Today, MFC still sells Patagonia clothing, with proceeds benefitting the wildfire fund. “I think the world of MFC, and (directors) Helen (Sedler) and Mandi (Schott) are just fantastic,” Ledin said.
Ledin thanks the GCWC, county commissioners, county manager Ed Moyer, and Human Services Director Deb Ruttenberg. “Our county is amazing in the amount of response we give in helping in any kind of emergency,” Ledin said.
She added that there are numerous volunteer organizations deserving recognition, including Southern Colorado Baptist Relief, East Troublesome Adopt-A-Family, Fire on the Mountain, and others. Resorts such as C Lazy U Ranch and Devil’s Thumb Ranch also provided recovery assistance.
Lastly, Ledin wanted to thank the Office of Emergency Management. She gave a shout-out to Director Joel Cochran, Deputy Director Alexis Kimbrough and Recovery Manager Alyssa Ingles. “I think the world of the office…they’re the glue behind making this all work,” Ledin said.
Although Ledin is grateful to have received CEMA’s award, she acknowledged it takes a village to confront a disaster, not one person. “I’ll proudly accept the award on behalf of every single organization that stepped up and did the work, and are continuing to do the work, to help,” she said. “I’m proud to live here…this shows the resiliency of Grand County.”
To learn more about the Grand Foundation and the services they offer, please visit http://www.grandfoundation.com.
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