Community spirit burns bright after Parachute apartment fire
In the blink of an eye, the lives of 24 youngsters in Parachute changed forever. On Dec. 3, a fire at the River Manor Apartments in Parachute forced 12 families out of their homes.
Four families lost everything, eight other families lost belongings due to smoke damage. Those families have since learned that they are part of a much larger family.
That family includes the students and staff of Garfield County School District No. 16, the River Manor Apartments and the surrounding communities.
Those families all came together on Saturday, Dec. 14, as students from Bea Underwood Elementary orchestrated a donation drive to help the fire victims. The drive was spearheaded by the schools Peer P.A.L.S. – 33 5th- and 6th-graders who know all about giving a helping hand.
School counselor Deb Cain said 16 kids from Bea Underwood were affected by the fire. School principal Larry Brady approached Cain after the fire and asked what the school could do to help.
“I went to our Peer P.A.L.S., which is all about helping others, and the kids decided, without any hesitation, that they would give up their Christmas party in order to make someone else’s Christmas better,” said Cain.
For one young victim it made not only her Christmas better, but gave her a whole new take on the area that she has called home for three years.
Diana, 10, and her family lost everything. Her bright smile and bubbling personality defies the hardships her family has faced.
Since the fire, Diana’s family has done without a lot of things, including beds, blankets and pillows. On Saturday that all changed, along with Diana’s perspective on her community.
“It made me feel really good about being a member of the community. Sometimes it seems that people don’t really care about Mexicans, so it was really nice to see that they do care,” she said.
For one 6-year-old kindergartner, the generosity of a Rifle business made his Christmas a whole lot brighter.
The young boy lived on the third floor of the burned building, and his parents had just recently bought him a bed in the shape of a race car. After being rescued from a burning building, his biggest concern was that his race car bed had burned up.
Kathy Trapp from the Country Attic in Rifle raced in to lend a helping hand.
“I had gone around to several businesses for donations, and when I spoke to Kathy about some of the things needed, she immediately started filling up four big boxes with clothes and bedding,” said Cain.
Much to Cain’s surprise, stored away in Trapp’s mothers garage was a Little Tykes race car bed. Trapp gladly donated the bed, and a 6-year-old boy can once again race through the night.
Cain noted that the families affected by the fire were overwhelmed. When offered certain items, they would say, “No we don’t really need that, we can get by without it.”
“These families had absolutely nothing, no furniture of any kind, and they would graciously say `We can do without,'” Cain said.
While many of the families’ needs were met on Saturday, others still need bedding, kitchen furniture, dishes and other kitchen items. For information, contact Deb Cain at (970) 285-9502, ext. 413.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.