An Aspen zip code for refugees? | AspenTimes.com

An Aspen zip code for refugees?

Janet Urquhart

Affluent Aspen and Pitkin County ought to do more for victims of Hurricane Katrina than write a check, according to one local elected official.Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland urged the city and county to explore housing some of those left homeless by last week’s hurricane and disastrous flooding on the Gulf Coast.”If we’re not the wealthiest community in the world, we’re certainly ranked. … I think we can do better than, ‘Well, we sent you a bunch of money – isn’t that great,’ ” Ireland said. “It would be good if this community could open its doors to a few of these families.”The city and county are already wrestling with official calls for disaster assistance and fielding inquiries from residents who want to help. Councilman Jack Johnson put out an e-mail call last week for ideas on how to raise funds for the relief effort; more than a dozen volunteers met Tuesday and are organizing an event next week.Ireland, at a joint meeting of the City Council and county commissioners Tuesday, suggested the proceeds go toward helping individuals who could relocate here.Meanwhile, local emergency-response agencies are meeting today to discuss requests for mutual aid from Louisiana and Mississippi. And the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority has been asked to provide a couple of buses to help transport refugees around Denver who are now housed at the former Lowry Air Force Base.If RFTA sends buses, they should be filled with relief supplies, Mayor Helen Klanderud said.No one voiced objections to Ireland’s welcome mat to refugees, but County Manager Hilary Smith urged caution.Refugees will need plenty of help – job training and placement, for example – as well as virtually all of the necessities to begin anew.”I don’t want anybody to be naive about what’s involved here,” she said. “|t’s not just opening a door and letting someone in your house. There’s a tremendous network of human services that are necessary.”It’s a long-term commitment, Smith added.”You can’t take a family that’s been evicted by Hurricane Katrina and then, in three months, evict them again,” she said.”People want to do things and they want to do it now … on the other hand, it’s important that we do this right,” Klanderud agreed.Council members and county commissioners directed staffers to explore putting some refugees in the community’s seasonal worker housing through this winter and trying to line up employment for them.But Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss reminded his colleagues that some refugees may not hold down a job. Many are disabled or have been living in poverty. They may not have been employed previously, and they may not be here, he said.”I think it’s important to realize it’s an all-encompassing commitment and a long-term commitment,” DeVilbiss said. “It’s not a shave and a haircut.”Next week’s community fund-raiser, on Tuesday, will involve New Orleans-style cuisine and music at several local restaurants, culminating with more music at the Belly Up, according to Johnson. More details will be forthcoming.Those looking to help or make a donation to local relief efforts can call Linda Gerdenich, the city’s director of community relations, at 920-5082 or 274-2478.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

(Editor’s note: The Aspen Times is receiving phone calls and e-mails daily about local hurricane-related efforts. We will publish as much information as possible, on a daily basis, until the demand diminishes. Anyone with information on hurricane relief events and activities may contact Catherine at 925-3414, ext. 234, by fax at 925-9156, or by e-mail at cathlutz@aspentimes.com.) Local residents Marilyn Gleason and Kim DeFries are collecting donations for hurricane victims at Western Self Storage in Carbondale today. Please consider giving canned and nonperishable food; camping gear including cooking stoves, tents, sleeping pads and lights; camping chairs/concert chairs, basic medical supplies including first aid kits, aspirin, crutches, etc.; toys and light blankets. Your ideas are welcome; enough clothes have been donated already.Supplies can be dropped off at 804 Highway 133, Unit 40 (behind the Red Rock Plaza in Carbondale). Donations will be driven south on Thursday; the van, which has a bed and can serve as a temporary home, will also be donated. Anyone with questions or a willingness to help can call Gleason’s pager at 928-3564. The Sky Hotel is spearheading a clothing drive for refugees in Houston and San Antonio. Rocky Mountain Connections has stepped up as the Sky’s shipping sponsor. Clothing can be brought to Rita Brooks or Melina Glavas at the hotel from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily this week. St. Mary’s Blood Center is conducting a blood drive in Basalt from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday. The Bloodmobile will be in the parking lot at Curves gym, 23280 Two Rivers Road. Call 927-1818 for information on this blood drive. For any questions regarding blood donation, call St. Mary’s Blood Center at (970) 244-2555, option 1. Willow Creek Bistro, in the Ritz Carlton at Aspen Highlands, is serving New Orleans gumbo for $5 per cup throughout September. All proceeds go directly to the American Red Cross. Carl’s Pharmacy in Aspen has donation boxes at the front registers. A Red Cross account has been set up at Alpine Bank. The bank and a local couple are matching any funds donated up to $50,000. Donations can be made by phone at (800) HELP NOW (435-7669), or online at http://www.redcross.org

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