Unification News for March 1997

Our Children Are Our Inspiration: Families Helping Families

by Shirley Chimes-Northglenn, CO

My 10-year-old son, Daniel, is very concerned about homeless people and talks about it often to me. In prayer, I told God I didn't know what to do about it or where to begin.

The morning after the Super Bowl, a motel fire near our home killed five people and left 100 people homeless. Several days later I decided to go to the motel with Daniel to pray for those who had died there, and to look at the damage. It was also a chance for us to count our many blessings.

At the motel site, there were several men with their children waiting to get back into their rooms. I began to talk to each father. They were worried and destitute. I couldn't help but ask them what they would need to begin all over again. In the course of the next few days, I made a few calls to local businesses asking for their help. The response was phenomenal: new bedding, clothes, personal items, furniture, a $1,000 gift certificate, kitchen goods, and much else, came from stores and neighbors. The response overwhelmed me so, that I called our community newspaper to tell them the story of the local businesses and their generosities toward the people who survived the fire. By this time, my husband and both sons were involved with helping those families.

Initially, I didn't understand what was going on. After a few days of being on the phone and getting donations, I began to realize I was acting on Daniel's inspiration regarding homeless people and their situations. Daniel is always thinking about other people. One teacher at school approached him and told him he is the nicest boy she has ever met.

The following is from the newspaper article printed in our Northglenn- Thornton Sentinel, entitled "Neighbors, Businesses Rally Behind Fire Victims":

When disaster strikes, help is only a phone call away in the metro area.

That's what Shirley Chimes found when she reached out to the Hacienda Hotel fire victims, who were displaced from their homes and lost most of their belongings in the blaze.

The Northglenn resident stopped by the hotel a couple of days after the Jan. 27 fire to see if she could help anyone or perhaps offer a prayer on the victims' behalf. Five people were killed and 100 were left homeless.

Some hotel residents were waiting to go into their rooms to salvage what they could of their belongings, including a single father and his 13-year-old son. Chimes said she asked the father what he was going to do and what he needed to put their lives back together.

She found the pair and another family of six needed clothes, personal hygiene products and bedding. The father also needed furniture, as he was moving Feb. 1 into an apartment he had rented prior to the fire.

Not knowing where to begin, Chimes called bigg's Hypermarket in Thornton. "This was just a shot in the dark," she noted.

But Chimes hit the jackpot when bigg's offered up blankets, pillows and lots of clothes, which she split between the families. "The family with four children got the most," she said.

Tammy Parker, bigg's administrative assistant, said the store regularly donates to the Red Cross and had given $200 in cash to help fire victims. She noted she was unaware some of the Hacienda residents still needed the items Chimes requested.

Parker estimated the store donated between $300 and $400 in goods that were new but could not be sold because of packaging conditions or other reasons.

Chimes then called American Furniture Warehouse to see if the owner could make a contribution.

According to Mikala Brees, administrative assistant at the warehouse, the father was given a $1,000 gift certificate. He used it to buy a sofa and two reclining chairs.

She noted the employees at the warehouse were anxious to help out.

"It was a whole company thing," Brees said. "Everybody was concerned about the victims there. The families who lost their possessions in that fire were our neighbors. Being a part of the Thornton community, we are happy to lend a hand to make things easier for those victims."

The Bonanza restaurant also donated some steak dinners, and the Chapel Haven Seventh Day Adventist Church volunteered to be a drop-off point for donations, Chimes said.

The Ramada Limited Denver North has provided up to 50 rooms at a discounted price after the first two nights, which were paid by the Red Cross and the Hacienda management. Some of the displaced Hacienda tenants are still staying there, according to an employee.

"The community definitely helped out," said Red Cross public affairs supervisor Matt Bertram. "We had wonderful response from the community with the Hacienda fire and other disasters."

Many organizations have had food and clothing drives, and some have helped find temporary homes for displaced residents, he noted.

Bertram said the worst-case scenarios from the Hacienda fire is a man and woman who worked for the hotel and have three children.

"They've lost their homes and their jobs," he explained. "The situation that was tough about this is there were so many families."

The Red Cross is still looking for permanent or even temporary homes for a few Hacienda tenants, to help them get their lives back to where they were before the disaster, Bertram said.

Meanwhile, Chimes and her neighbors have been able to collect dishes, utensils and even a bed for the 13-year-old boy. She said she was pleased by the response she got when she started making phone calls.

"It really is very heartwarming that the business community cares for its citizenship so nicely," Chimes noted. "It just happened because we asked."

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