A community steps up to help victims of the house fire

Places to live now the top priority

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

Can a community be overly generous? Probably not, but after a massive house fire last week south of Crested Butte displaced eight people who lost almost everything, the community stepped up big. Within a couple of days, more than enough clothing was donated to keep the victims warm and in style.

Stephanie Dietrich initially put out one of the first calls for community help as James Tafoya, the father of a family of four who lived in the apartment that was destroyed in the blaze, works for Dietrich Dirt Works. Dietrich quickly set up a Facebook page called Crested Butte House Fire Relief. It listed the victims and their needs, including clothes sizes and links to several GoFundMe pages that have been set up for those impacted by the tragedy.

“It was very humbling to witness everyone come together and take care of those affected so quickly,” she said this week. “I’m very proud to be a part of this community. It’s such a tragedy that this happened but what we have all learned since this happened is this… this is what our valley does.”

Dietrich said no more clothing or shoes are needed but long-term places to live are still elusive. “The community stepped up immediately and all affected are warm and have more than they need, thanks to everyone,” she said. “All of those impacted have temporary housing but need long-term housing as soon as possible. That is the number one priority right now.”

The Tafoya family with two sons need a two- or three-bedroom, dog-friendly place in the north end of the valley. Two of the guys who lived in another unit lost in the blaze could live together close to Crested Butte and two other tenants are still in need of a place as well.

Dietrich said Spencer and Korrie Armstrong have donated a storage space in Crested Butte South to be used for clothing and smaller household items. “Earle O’Hagan from Skyhigh Offroad has graciously allowed us to use an empty shipping container in Riverland for larger furniture items like beds, chairs, dining room sets, etc. But drop-off has to be coordinated with me before anything is dropped off,” Dietrich said. “Some people have already tried to go and leave broken furniture and trash. We cannot have that. If people have furniture they would like to donate and have the space to store [it] until we can secure housing, that is preferred. The shipping container is filling up.”

Food help

Tracy Hastings has coordinated food for the family and a once per week meal train. “Like Stephanie said, it’s going really well,” said Hastings. “The amount of clothing and household goods that have been donated has been incredible. We have actually asked the community to stop these for now and to help focus on housing. Our community now has eight individuals, two of whom are school-aged children who do not have a place to live in January. We are asking the community for help with housing. If you are able to help, please contact Stephanie.”

Hastings said food is another concern. “We have started a meal train for the Tafoya family and are asking for hot meals and groceries. We are also collecting gift cards for groceries and essentials at Oh Be Joyful Church. Gift cards are a super easy and helpful way to contribute,” Hastings said. “Everyone needs groceries!”

She said there is a drop-box in the front entry at Oh Be Joyful Church. The idea is to continue collecting grocery gift cards for the upcoming months. Once everyone finds a place to live, Hastings said they will still need support on getting their lives back in order and groceries/food is an easy way for anyone to help.

Tracy and Stephanie noted that several local restaurants have offered to feed the fire victims for free through an open tab or donated gift certificates. Caroline McLean put out donation jars around town at various businesses.

“Katie Johnston with OBJ is leading the efforts on the donations and it’s quite huge,” added Hastings. “The youth room at OBJ has been taken over and divided into sections for each person or family, household goods, gear, etc. Katie is doing a remarkable job organizing the donated goods.”

Facebook information

The Crested Butte House Fire Relief Facebook page is where organizers try to post all updates. If you’d like to help with the meal train, buy a meal from a restaurant(s) for the family or the four guys and have it delivered or donate groceries; updates are posted on the CB House Fire Relief page on Facebook. They also update the Crested Butte Community Forum page and the Gunnison Marketplace page. Stephanie said she included all the GoFundMe pages on that site as well along with Venmo and Paypal information.

“It’s been very emotional seeing the love and support in this community. We step up and take care of our own! We Always have and we Always will,” Dietrich stated in an email. “So from the bottom of our hearts… THANK YOU!! CB Strong!!”

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