Dozens of Colorado Springs-area businesses stepped up to help the efforts to extinguish the Black Forest fire — not by fighting the fire, but by feeding, clothing and sheltering the victims and the firefighters.
“Somebody has to do it,” said Sally Layton, whose husband, Bill, has teamed with Greg Howard and Jason Hann, along with other restaurant owners and managers, to provide food for the firefighters as well as those who were evacuated.
“My husband is a very quick thinker and a stand-up guy who just jumps in,” Layton said.
He and others did the same thing for the firefighters during the Waldo Canyon fire.
Linda Holder, the woman in charge of meals from the Bureau of Land Management, had met the businessmen when they served 450-500 meals on Wednesday, June 12, the fire’s first full day. When a call came on Sunday morning asking how serious they were about their offer to further help with more meals, Bill Layton said, “Drop-dead serious.”
He recalled that Holder then said, “You have my livelihood in your hands; I need this badly.”
Layton said he didn’t hesitate: “We said we’re in … [but] in the back of my mind, I’m somewhat terrified.”
So with only hours of lead time on Father’s Day morning, the businessmen collected ingredients for, prepared and distributed hot dinners for 1,200 people.
No sooner had that food been consumed when the restaurant team was back at it again — this time to build breakfast for the crew and sack lunches as well.
Some 30 restaurants and businesses helped, including Layton’s wife, who took notes and served as the logistics committee, he said.
The group eventually will get paid and plans to distribute the money to the businesses that donated food, Layton said, though he doesn’t know how much.
For restaurants that decline the money, Layton will donate that amount to an agency collecting cash for the firefighting efforts or for those who lost homes.
Also, “Bill and I went to the equestrian center,” Sally Layton said. “We just showed up and gave away sausages to everyone volunteering.”
The effort shows the community “really steps up. We have more offers of help than we can use,” she said.
More than 50 businesses — from Advanced Auto Parts to Yogurt in Love — volunteered to collect food for Care and Share Food Bank, said Community Relations Director Shannon Coker. Food donations totaled 188,563 pounds as of late last week, but because the agency had distributed the vast majority of that, it was advertising for more donations.
Coker said the agency needed canned and boxed meals and snack items.
Some evacuees were the four-legged type, and they, too, needed help. The Norris Penrose Event Center became the distribution point for feed and other items to support animals, said General Manager Johnny Walker.
The event center also took in around 100 horses.
In contrast with the Waldo Canyon fire, many of this year’s victims have farm and ranch animals, Walker said. When they evacuated, the residents didn’t evacuate feed or equipment with their animals, Walker said. So the event center served as middle-ground to meet need with the help.
The event center announced, “Bring your hay here,” Walker said. “We will stockpile it,” along with wheelbarrows, pitchforks, ointment, halters, fly spray, veterinarian help.
The event center had “a hard time keeping up,” with the calls, which came mainly from people wanting to help, Walker said.
“There are individuals who donated things and cash and don’t want to be named,” said Michelle Roth, director of business development for the event center.
Big R donated a large trailer full of shavings, pitchforks, wheelbarrows and tarps, and Wal-Mart donated tarps and buckets, Walker said.
“It just goes on and on,” Walker said. “People in this town are so awesome, but so are the businesses.”
Other businesses that donated items include Front Range Equine Rescue, Home Depot, JV Ranches, Crime Stoppers, Kodiak Development, T-Cross Ranches, Circle F Feed & Pet Supply, Bingos, Bite Me Gourmet Sausages, Culver’s, Shell Gas and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Richard Skorman and his wife/business partner Patricia Seator are making the same offer during the Black Forest fire as they did for last year’s Waldo Canyon fire, welcoming evacuees and first responders at their businesses, Poor Richard’s Restaurant, Little Richard’s Toy Store, Rico’s Café and Wine Bar and Poor Richard’s Books and Gifts. They’re giving away a free meal — pizza and a soda — to any evacuee or first responder.
“They’re welcome to come in and rest and relax and know we’re all appreciating what they’re doing,” said Skorman. “Downtown’s a safe place to escape.”
The Broadmoor donated 500 meals that had been prepared for Mayor Steve Bach’s State of the City speech that was postponed.
“We donated all of that food to the first responders,” said Allison Scott, Broadmoor director of communications. She added that after the Waldo Canyon fire, 30 Broadmoor staff members volunteered to complete wildfire training.
“They have been out in shifts working the fire,” Scott said. The company continues to pay the employees while they’re offsite. The Broadmoor has not received requests for housing as it did last year during the Waldo Canyon fire.
“Last year, we were scrambling,” Scott said. This year, “People are much more prepared — we as a community.”
The Cheyenne Mountain Resort also donated meals — around 1,000 in total to firefighters and victims of the fires, said Todd Felsen, general manager.
Saturday, as planned, the resort served as the finish line for the Ride the Rockies bicycle tour, with about 2,000 riders ending their 540-mile trip. There, the resort held a Care and Share food drive. The resort donated proceeds from that and other sales to Salvation Army and American Red Cross, to be used for fire victims.
“Whatever we can do in the community, that’s what we’re here for,” Felsen said. “It’s great that all the large and small businesses are watching out for the residents.
“It’s great to be part of that.”
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo offered free admissions to evacuees through June 23. Interested persons must pre-register. Call the zoo at 633-9925 for details.
The El Paso County Bar Association and the Denver Bar Association scheduled three events to help people impacted by the fire. The county group offered free assistance Wednesday and a free call-in Thursday. The Denver group dedicated Lawline 9, a call-in program, to helping on Wednesday.