With the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs still largely uncontained, hundreds of people continue to seek refuge with the American Red Cross.
On Thursday night, five Red Cross shelters remained open in Colorado, where more than 300 people spent the night; another four were open in Montana due to a wildfire in the southeastern part of the state.
At the Red Cross shelter at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, five members of the Burnett family, spanning three generations, pulled their Red Cross cots close together on Thursday as they settled into their third night. During the day, Heather Burnett watches over her two small children, Connor, 3 months old, and Brendon, 5. Brendon plays with his brother and other children staying in the shelter.
“Really, it’s been amazing,” says Burnett. “Everyone here is so kind, we have everything we need here.” She smiles as she watches her children and appreciates all of the activities and games available for kids. “We have no idea how long we’ll be here, we’ve never had to evacuate before.”
Laurie Shandon has also been staying at the Cheyenne Mountain H.S. shelter. A disabled veteran, she’s enjoying the company of her service dog, Tequila Rain. Tequila, a rescued Pomeranian, lays at Shandon’s feet as they pass the time.
After being evacuated over the weekend and staying with friends, Shandon made it to the Red Cross shelter to escape the heat. “It’s surprisingly awesome,” says Shandon. “They even wake me up to eat…I thinking I’m gaining weight!”
Shandon mentions the kindness of the staff, her neighbors, many friends from her own community and the great partnerships see sees. “It’s the whole community taking care of each other—that’s special.”
Shandon worries what she’ll find at home and wonders how long it will be before she can even go there, but for now she knows she and Tequila are safe and comfortable.
Red Cross shelter volunteer Michelle Dane is doing her part to make sure shelter residents feel at home there. She smiles brightly as she greets residents, many from her own Manitou community. They’ll be neighbors again tonight, as Dane and her husband are also residents. At the shelter since Saturday, Michelle volunteers all day and settles into her cot each night.
“I treat this as if it were my own home,” says Dane. She proudly greets new residents, saying, “Welcome to my home!” When asked why she continues to volunteer, she simply says, “This community is my home; these people aren’t strangers, they are my neighbors. There is a need, so here I am.”
As she rests on her cot and sighs, she, like the others, doesn’t know what she’ll go home to. But she gets strength from knowing she is part of the help and the hope.Heather Burnett and her family have spent three days at the Red Cross shelter at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo: Cesar Rodriguez. Red Cross shelter resident Michelle Dane does her part to make everyone feel at home. Photo: Cesar Rodriguez. Laurie Shandon and her service dog, Tequila, appreciate the safe and comfortable environment at the Red Cross shelter. Photo: Cesar Rodriguez.
How You Can Help You can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.