Parachute shows strength in wake of tragedy
It is said that hard times always reveal who your true friends are, and if that’s true, the Richardson family is blessed with a town full of friends. Within minutes Friday afternoon, their dream home was turned to ashes — and that’s when the Parachute community showed how supportive it can be. Within hours of the blaze, donation centers were set up at Alpine Bank and the fire station, with clothing being donated by the bagful.
An emotional Gina Richardson on Monday wished to convey her appreciation to everyone who stepped up.
“I’m just so proud and pleased and amazed that everyone kept doing stuff for us, people I don’t even know,” she said through tears. “It’s more than amazing.”
Gina grew up in Parachute, but moved to Rifle with her husband, Taylor, for 11 years. She moved back to Parachute into her dream home in June with her husband and their five boys, all 12 and younger.
At around 3:20 p.m. Friday a fire started in the home. By 4, its fate was sealed.
Grand Valley Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Robert Ferguson said that by the time firefighters got to the house, minutes after being called, it was a total loss. Once the fire spread to the attic, there was no hope of saving it, according to Ferguson. Firefighters were able to ensure that the blaze, the cause of which is under investigation, did not spread.
Taylor was at work when tragedy struck, and Gina was in the house with three of her children when the fire started.
“It went up so fast we couldn’t do anything,” she said. “The boys were amazing.”
Gina’s oldest, Trey, 12, got her out of the bedroom, while 10-year-old Tyden got their youngest, Grit, 3, to safety.
In the three days since the Richardson house went up in flames, multiple fundraisers have been set up on various platforms for people to donate to the family, and a clothing drive is underway at Grand Valley Fire Station One in Parachute.
“People are just … I don’t know what we’d do,” she added.
Tom Young and Deena Stanley, who are co-workers of Taylor at Shell Tech, along with family and friends set up the donation centers. Jay Candymaker with Grand Valley’s Helping Hand immediately reached out to the family and has helped spread the word about what is needed and when via Facebook.
“We went from having absolutely nothing on Friday to needing a storage shed on Sunday,” Taylor Richardson said. “Stuff has been coming in from Meeker, Moab, Grand Junction … you name it.”
He said that at breakfast over the weekend, after the server led them in prayer, he received a free meal along with a $200 gift card to the restaurant.
“We’re just so amazed and shocked by the outpouring,” he added. “We’ve been offered maybe six homes in three days.”
When he heard about the fire, Edward Wilks at the Tradesmen Gun Store in Rifle went to Little Caesars Pizza and made sure the family would not go hungry that night. The store also donated a portable DVD player and some DVDs, which were obviously not essential, but much appreciated in a family of five young boys uprooted from their home. The family is staying with Gina’s parents.
“This moment is about making sure the family is safe and cared for,” Wilks said. “This is what western Colorado communities are all about.”
Likewise, First Assembly of God Church in Rifle refused to stand by while members suffered, and donated a care package to the family.
“We look after each other,” said Pastor B.J. Worthen.
“This is pretty indicative of the community we live in,” said Parachute Mayor Roy B. McClung, who’s lived in Parachute his whole life and does not ever remember a situation quite like this. “Really blesses me as an elected official to see the community step up like this.”
Stanley said a fund has been set up for people to donate to at Alpine Bank called “Benefit for the Richardson Family.” People may also donate to the Benefit for the Richardson Family Go Fund Me campaign created by Loni Page. Created on Monday the campaign had already raised $1,800 in six hours. There is also a drop-off site at the Grand Valley fire station for clothing and other items.
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