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Alpine Bank, CMC Foundation distribute Coal Seam Fire relief funds

Tamie Meck

Jennifer Ingelhart clutched a white envelope in her hand Friday morning. Inside was a check in the amount of $2,000.

“This will make a huge difference, not just financially, but in every way,” said a teary-eyed Ingelhart.

Ingelhart’s family lost home and possessions when the Coal Seam Fire swept across the outskirts of West Glenwood Springs in the early evening hours of June 8.

Jennifer, husband Jourdan, daughter Jenalee, 15, and son Jereth, 13, were among the first of 32 families who lost their homes that day to receive a disbursement from Alpine Bank’s Coal Seam Fire Disaster Relief Fund.

Jennifer said the family is shopping for a new home this weekend. “This will help with our earnest money,” she said.

Brian and Shannon Derby, children Cody, 8, and Natasha, 11, and Frances and Adam Padilla and their daughter Katherine also accepted their checks Friday morning.

Like many of the families, the Padillas had no time to gather any of their possessions. “This will help out immensely,” said Frances. “You don’t even know how much.”

“We’re very grateful,” said Shannon Derby, whose family also lost everything, including the family dog, to the fire. “Every bit helps.”

Derby said the family will likely use the money to purchase school supplies and clothing, and to put a down payment on a new home.

As of Friday, Alpine Bank hadn’t been able to contact all of the fund’s beneficiaries, said corporate marketing coordinator Beth Drum. Since these people no longer live in their homes, they are often hard to reach.

“If we can’t find them,” she said, “they can come to us.”

There is no application process required to receive a check. Victims only need to visit the bank in person during business hours.

Almost $85,000 was donated to the fund by the community, according to Alpine Bank President Bob Young. Of those funds, $25,000 was seed money donated by the bank the day after the fire started.

“It’s great to help you in a small way, and we wish you the best,” said Young as he helped present the checks. “The best to you, and godspeed on a new home.”

In order to ensure that all donations were tax-deductible, the Colorado Mountain College Foundation oversaw accounting and disbursement of the funds. Philanthropist Jim Calaway greeted fire victims and helped present the checks.

“CMC was a real leader during the early days of the fire, and continues to be today,” said John Cooper, vice president of Alpine Bank. The college offered its Spring Valley Campus facilities to the American Red Cross for a shelter, worked with local, state and regional agencies, and the Colorado Animal Rescue shelter, on CMC land, cared for pets displaced by the fire.

Alpine Bank identified the 32 families through the American Red Cross. Red Cross workers and volunteers verified and documented damage to home and property. Alpine Bank elected to divide the money equally between the families who suffered total loss of their homes based on donor requests, said Young.

The balance of the account represents Alpine Bank’s initial contribution to the fund. That money will go directly to the Red Cross Western Colorado Chapter to help cover its fire-related expenses.

The Red Cross, noted Young, served 16,000 meals during the eight days following the fire, made payouts to fire victims for lodging, clothing and miscellaneous expenses, and worked closely with the bank to identify the most needy of the victims.

“We’re very proud to have been a partner with the Red Cross,” said Young.

People who lost their homes and have not been in contact with Alpine Bank are asked to call Beth Drum at 384-3255.


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