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Organization helps Boulder County fire victims with clothes, rent assistance

Sister Carmen Community Center provides assistance to East Boulder County residents residing in Lafayette, Louisville, Superior or Erie.

BOULDER, Colo. — Following last month's devastating wildfire in Boulder County, many families were displaced after losing their homes and all their belongings to the fire.

Many of those families are currently in temporary homes and others are struggling to find work after their workplaces burned down. 

RELATED: Updated numbers show 1,084 homes destroyed in Marshall Fire

Sister Carmen Community Center, a non-religious, non-profit organization, is helping families affected by the Marshall Fire with clothing, food and covering the cost for those that are staying in temporary housing. 

"We are helping families that were affected by the fires with gift cards, with food, if they need it," said Abi Ocampo, lead bilingual advocate at the Sister Carmen Community Center. "Kitchen items, or sofas, beds, whatever you need, we are there to support you. "

Ocampo said that families who were displaced and who are in hotels or looking for a hotel, can go to the organization for help to pay for their stay.

"We are helping families to stay in a hotel, be safe or help pay for a hotel if they are already there and need this financial assistance."

The organization has provided assistance to East Boulder County residents residing in Lafayette, Louisville and Superior for more than 40 years. They help people with rent assistance, utility assistance, including water and Xcel bills, and they connect people with resources. 

“We love our community; we try to work with them and meet them where they’re at,” Ocampo said.

According to Ocampo, Sister Carmen Community Center is asking for financial donations and gift cards as it now inundated after receiving large numbers of clothing and kitchen items, furniture and diapers among others things. 

RELATED: Community donations help fill gaps as Marshall Fire survivors move forward

"We are at the capacity of our donations, our building is completely full, it looks like a warehouse where we have things stored," said Ocampo. "So the best way to help us is by donating. It doesn't matter if it's a dollar, five dollars, 100 dollars; we are accepting donations because those donations help us to book hotels, to buy more food if necessary. To buy cards." 

Credit: Sister Carmen Community Center
Sister Carmen Community Center thrift store is free to fire victims from 3 p.m to 5 p.m. daily.

Families sometimes need gasoline so people can also donate gas or visa cards so the families can do what they need to do with those cards. They can also donate cards to their favorite stores like Walmart, Target, King Soopers and Safeway.

Another barrier that families affected by the fire are facing is the pandemic with many people also getting COVID-19 as they are dealing with a housing crisis. 

"So we have to get creative in order to help them get the assistance," Ocampo said. "We don’t want COVID to be an issue, actually we want to help them because we know that with COVID just complicates things."

RELATED: Short-term rental owners come together to offer housing for Marshall Fire survivors

“I have people that are like, ‘I’m so confused, I’m sorry I have COVID. My brain just isn’t working'," she added. "I get it, I want to help you so just come to our center and we’ll figure something out for you." 

Ocampo said that those in need of assistance can call the organization and speak to a bilingual representative at 303-665-4342. They don't need an appointment but calling ahead of time will help in directing them accordingly. 

The Marshall Fire is the most devastating wildfire in state history. It has destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and burned more than 6,200 acres. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated as the fire spread through the Superior, Louisville and Broomfield areas.

On Jan. 1, two days after the Marshall Fire began to devastate Boulder County communities, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration. 

The declaration will release federal aid, including from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for Colorado. Residents and business owners who suffered losses in designated areas can begin applying for assistance by registering online or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

RELATED: Federal aid coming to Colorado after disaster declaration approval

Assistance may include grants for temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs.

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