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Relief-fund donations slow for Gold King Mine spill victims

34 people who lost income after spill receive help

Durango is not living up to its reputation as a generous community in the aftermath of the Gold King Mine spill into the Animas River.

Ten days after the Community Emergency Relief Fund was reopened, individuals have donated only about $2,000 toward helping employees who either lost their jobs or had their hours cut back significantly because of the spill. Businesses have done a better job of stepping forward, with First National Bank of Durango donating $5,000; Nature’s Oasis kicking in $500; La Plata Electric Association’s Found Up Foundation writing a check for $4,000; and Bank of Colorado contributing $2,500.

All told, the fund has received $14,000 as of Thursday, bringing cash on hand to $42,000.

After the 2008 Main Avenue Fire that led to the fund’s creation, the community donated close to $100,000, leaving about $28,000 in the fund so the response could be immediate for the next emergency.

“We’re not sure why people aren’t donating,” said Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado, which is handling the financial side of the fund. “We don’t know if people have short attention spans, if they’re thinking these people aren’t worthy of support or if they’re thinking the Environmental Protection Agency is going to make them whole. But we’re the first line, and we’re just trying to keep these employees housed and fed.”

To date, the Durango Business Improvement District, which is handling the requests for help, has received 35 applications and granted all but one, Wrinkle said.

“The person turned out not to be an employee,” she said. “We’ve had six business – all rafting companies – come in asking for assistance for their employees.”

The group has committed to two months’ worth of assistance for people receiving awards, totalling $30,000, and applications are still coming in. Some rafting guides went to the Colorado or Salmon Rivers trying to pick up jobs there, she said, but they may be back, still needing help because of lost income.

“And I know some of these people are teachers or college students who are going into another phase of their year,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that losing August didn’t hurt them, didn’t hurt their finances.”

There’s also a need to leave the fund robust for the next emergency, she said.

“We really need to see more support,” Wrinkle said, “because we have to be ready next time.”


To donate or apply

To donate to the Community Emergency Relief Fund, checks should be made payable to Community Foundation – Community Emergency Relief Fund and sent to the foundation at P.O. Box 1673, Durango, CO 81302. Deposits may also be made directly at Bank of the San Juans, and donations via credit card may be made at www.swcommunityfoundation.org.

To apply for assistance from the Community Emergency Relief Fund, applications are available at www.swcommunityfoundation.org or www.downtowndurango.org, or at the Business Improvement District office, 850½ Main Ave., Suite 2. Completed applications should be submitted to BID.

For further information about the fund, contact the BID at 375-5067 or the foundation at 375-5807.

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