Southern Baptist Disaster Relief helps East Troublesome victims with cleanup, healing
After June Matson lost her home to the East Troublesome Fire, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief immediately offered to sift through the ashes.
The group of volunteers went through what remained of Matson’s home and left a pile of any objects they thought might be meaningful. They also listened to Matson as she processed her loss.
“The level of training they have in trauma and what the homeowner is going through is just amazing,” Matson said. “They would just listen to us. If we cried, they didn’t try to fix it or anything — they just were there. They just served us in such a beautiful way.”
The volunteer group worked on Matson’s property until the snow fell last October. They returned this month finish the work and do the same for other properties in need of cleanup. The effort is through a partnership with the Grand County government and Grand Foundation.
“I’m so thankful that you guys came and are still here and helping the rest of the people that are still working on cleanup,” Matson told the group Tuesday at her property.
Grand Foundation Executive Director Megan Ledin recalled in the aftermath of the fire how quickly the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief came to assist to Grand. They came up to begin site assessments in October, but quickly initiated debris removal.
“They were gung-ho, up here ready to go,” Ledin said.
Dennis Belz, state director for the Colorado branch of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, said the group has more than 50 cleanup jobs planned this summer, though more requests are still rolling in. The group has partnered with Grand County to complete 120 site assessments as well as the cleanup work planned through August.
With so much to do, the volunteers work six and a half days a week. For a typically sized home, it takes 10 volunteers two 10-hour days to clear the debris and leave a fresh lot for rebuilding.
Belz said the nationwide program has 85,000 volunteers in its network, including 500 in Colorado. On Tuesday, the volunteers were from South Carolina; a team from Missouri will replace them next week.
A little way down the road from Matson’s property, volunteers in asbestos suits and ventilators were sifting through the ashes in the corner of another home. The property owners were hoping to recover their wedding rings thought to be lost to the fire.
“(The volunteers) don’t always find everything, but they find the majority of what people are looking for,” Belz said. “There’s hope that something is going to be there. That is why we say we bring help, hope and healing. That’s what we do.”
Management Director Joel Cochran explained that Grand County commissioners wanted to find local solutions for recovery from the East Troublesome Fire.
“This is what a local recovery looks like,” Cochran said at the site.
The cost savings from the volunteers are significant, especially compared to price estimates from FEMA. The Grand Foundation’s Wildfire Fund is covering the equipment rental for debris removal.
The volunteers are trained and credentialed for recovery from disasters of all types and help with healing as much as cleanup.
“Just to be there — be the helping hands,” Belz said. “Helping people try to heal again because it’s a big shock to their systems when they’ve lost everything they’ve had … It’s a bigger challenge than it ever was before.”
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