Lending a Helping Hand: A Community Rallies around Fire Victims
In the wake of a structure fire that destroyed nine buildings and damaged one in Wade’s mobile park in West Laramie, organizations in Albany County are coming together to help the victims put their lives back together.
United Way of Albany County, the Red Cross, Interfaith Good Samaritan, The Salvation Army, Ark Regional Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters and other organizations met Tuesday to discuss and coordinate efforts to get the seven families who lost their homes back on their feet. Fortunately, the biggest problem isn’t community apathy or stinginess. The biggest problem on their hands is how to coordinate the outpouring of support from the community and to get the resources where they need to go.
Mike Vercauteren, executive director of Interfaith Good Samaritan, said as of 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Laramie Foster Closet was full and didn’t have room for more donations. He said Good Interfaith Samaritan was inundated with calls and emails from concerned citizens wanting to know how they could help.
“These people want to give and they want to give quickly,” Vercauteren said.
To help facilitate giving and to make sure the victims received the help they need, the organizations in attendance set goals such as creating lists detailing the demographics of the victims to better inform donations.
United Way of Albany County Executive Director Paul Heimer said for individuals who want to give to the victims, the most effective method is cash contributions to the United Way of Albany County or to Interfaith Good Samaritan. Heimer said the two organizations plan to pool the money and would use it to provide housing once Red Cross funds ran out, as well as for other needs such as medication.
Heimer said ultimately they would like to get the families resettled into housing and to provide grants for their housing costs to help them get back on their feet. He said Albany County Emergency Coordinator Aimee Binning would be meeting with the families to determine more specific needs.
“We hope that people will respond,” Heimer said. “Again they can call Interfaith or United Way and all the money they donate will go towards this.”
Heimer said they hope to raise $20,000 for the families.
IGS said in a release that while monetary donations are preferred at this point and time, people with specific items to donate should hold on to them, as they and United Way are working to compile a list of items that the families need. IGS says residents with specific items can help by calling IGS at 307-742-4240 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and providing contact information and a specific list of items they are willing to donate.
Aimee Binning said that volunteer organizations who want to help with this effort, as well as other situations like this in the future, should get in touch with Albany County Emergency Management in order to be put on a list of contacts in a situation like this. Binning said when there is an emergency, they will receive information that EMA has, as well as making it easier to coordinate those volunteer groups and let them know what services they can provide to the community and to more easily coordinate resources in an event like the Wade’s fire.