The community center continues to help victims of the Marshall fire

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Over the past two months, hundreds of people have stepped up to help victims of the Marshall Fire. Organizations have also done their fair share, but one has gone above and beyond to help those it has served for decades.

Sister Carmen Community Center has been a one stop shop for those in need in the community for years.

“Our number one thing is that we put people first,” said Kristen Bohanon, director of development at the Sister Carmen community center.

Since the Marshall fire burned more than 1,000 homes and businesses, the priority has shifted to helping the victims.

“Serving East Boulder County means that, typically, we serve Superior, Louisville, Lafayette and Erie. So roughly 100 percent of the affected people’s fires occurred in our service area,” Bohanon said.

The community center was able to provide hundreds of food items on the pantry shelves, clothing and even a roof over the victims’ heads.

“Through a food bank, we’re able to provide food, obviously, but also hygiene items, baby items like diapers, formula, that sort of thing,” Bohanon said. “We’ve helped, so far, over 600 families with things like thrift store vouchers, $500 per person in a voucher to get all the household items they need, or clothes, access to our food bank.”

“We’ve also helped people get into hotels. I think we’ve helped over 70, maybe 80 families now, with at least a week’s stay in a hotel,” Bohanon said.

Although what has proven to be the most popular form of assistance for those affected by the Marshall fire is access to gift cards.

“We gave away over $250,000 in gift cards, and so it was gift cards for, you know, Visa, Target, Walmart, Costco grocery stores, local restaurants,” Bohanon said. “This has been very important for families because it gives them both the flexibility and the dignity to get what they want when they want it and when they need it most.”

A big part of Sister Carmen’s fire recovery mission has been to help all victims, including those who may not have the same access to help as others.

“As a nonprofit, we have a little more flexibility. Because people without papers, for example, don’t have access to the same resources as people who have a social security number,” said Bohanon said. “So we are able to provide that help, even if the families are undocumented, because, as I said, our mission is to help people, regardless of their situation and without discrimination. We must help them a little differently.”

Helping everyone affected helps provide a little more light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s really great to be able to help them in a situation just because they’re people,” Bohanon said.

Jill E. Washington