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Neighbors’ generosity after Colorado fire has been ‘extraordinary’, displaced family says

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A Catholic couple who lost their home in a historic Colorado wildfire late last year say they have experienced “absolutely heroic virtue” from their neighbors, as they and thousands of others reel from the complete loss of their homes.

“Many blessings every day have helped us see the glory of God in this devastating time,” Tom Greany told CNA in emailed responses to questions.

“Our Catholic friends have almost all reached out with offers to help…Those who took it upon themselves to purchase and deliver items without asking taught me a great lesson in giving.”

The Greany home was destroyed by the Marshall Fire on Dec. 30, with only a statue of Mary left standing. The fire destroyed at least 991 homes and businesses and damaged about 125 more structures, the Colorado Sun reported Wednesday. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Since evacuating, Tom and Kat Greany have been staying in a hotel in nearby Thornton, Colorado, and have plans to move soon into a condo provided rent free by “an angelic lady.”

Tom says they have been almost overwhelmed by offers of help and prayers.

“It has been truly extraordinary to see how many people have generously offered space in their homes; purchased items as though they had already been through this and knew exactly what we needed,” Greany said.

“People who have offered to step up in every way— running needed errands, offering the use of vehicles, tools; gifts of time in doing grunge work.”

He also noted that many area restaurants that have already been suffering from closures related to COVID-19 have offered free meals to displaced people.

“I don’t know how many people have said, ‘I’m praying for you but I wish I could do more.’ Recognize that prayers made in faith are the greatest gift. Because they beget blessings for the giver and receiver,” Tom said.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver announced last week the establishment of an emergency fund to assist victims of the fires. Local Catholic parishes have been opened to receive displaced families.

Tom stressed that the fire comes on top of a now two-year long pandemic, and many families will be stressed almost to the breaking point. The situation “may also create the need for counseling and mental health services at a time when there is no money to pay for them.”

In terms of their neighborhood and community, the rebuilding process will take years, he noted, so even if a person of good will cannot donate or help now, that “doesn’t mean their gifts won’t be needed at other points in that timeframe…Recognizing that many different skill sets are needed when building back is helpful because gifts of time and talent are underrated.”

Despite early and widespread evacuations ahead of the fire, two people remain missing and as-yet unidentified remains of one person have been found in the burned area.

The Colorado Apartment Association has set up a portal to help displaced residents find a new place to live.

President Joe Biden will tour the Marshall Fire area on Friday at the invitation of a local representative, it was announced Wednesday.

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