Help is on the way | AspenTimes.com

Help is on the way

Naomi Havlen

Mike Fondo of Basalt is collecting goods to fill a truck and trailer, which he plans to drive to New Orleans to help Hurricane Katrina victims. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

The Roaring Fork Valley mobilized to support Hurricane Katrina victims Friday, getting the word out about dozens of ways to contribute locally to relief efforts.Frustrated by reports of relief being slow to reach the Southern states, Basalt resident Mike Fondo took matters into his own hands, renting a 26-foot truck and taking it to City Market in El Jebel, where locals could help him fill it with water, food and clothing. Store officials made him leave their parking lot, saying he hadn’t gotten their approval to be there, but he found a second home nearby in the parking lot of Bank of Colorado.”I got tired of watching not enough get done, so I’ve decided to close down my sand-blasting company for a week and go out there,” Fondo said. He’ll be back in the parking lot accepting donations in the truck (and a 6 by 12 trailer donated by U-Haul) to drive to areas surrounding New Orleans in Louisiana and Mississippi.The outskirts of New Orleans ultimately may not receive as much financial aid as the city because they’re not predominantly on the news, he said. He said he plans on being back at the Bank of Colorado parking lot in El Jebel at 8 this morning and won’t leave until the truck and trailer are full.

Word got out about Fondo’s mission through e-mails in the Roaring Fork Valley – Aspen resident Yasmine DePagter got one and made Fondo’s truck one of her stops during the day to buy 10 cases of water.”[The relief effort] has been so badly bungled that it’s a disaster,” she said. “Everyone wants to contribute money, but somehow being hands-on and giving goods feels better.”Many efforts to raise money in the valley were announced on Friday.Snowmass Village residents Richard and Susan Goodwin are willing to match up to $25,000 worth of donations to Alpine Bank for the Red Cross, having already given $10,000 of their own money straight to the organization.”Money is like fertilizer – it doesn’t do any good unless you spread it around,” Richard Goodwin said on Friday afternoon. “Hopefully this will jump-start some people here who are asleep at the switch. We hope people rise to the occasion.”

Alpine Bank is also working with local schools to collect spare change in a project called “Koins for Katrina.” School children in the upper valley will be taking change to school to donate and filling water cooler bottles with money. Alpine Bank has agreed to match donations up to $10,000 to be donated to the Red Cross.”When you’re part of a small community, this is what you want to get out of a school experience,” said Mary Ryerson, senior vice president at the bank. “We live in an isolated area and the images on TV are galvanizing. Getting involved is so important, and we do a lot of things like this well in Aspen.”The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department has established a relief fund to aid volunteer fire departments, specifically by supporting the National Volunteer Fire Council and its Emergency Relief Fund. The fund was established Aug. 30 to aid volunteer fire departments affected by Hurricane Katrina.All contributions are tax deductible – for more information, contact Roy Holloway, chaplain of the local volunteer fire department, at 379-3122 or visit http://www.nvfc.org.Business owners are also getting into the charitable act. Glenwood Canyon Resort and Rock Gardens has pledged to donate a portion of proceeds from each raft trip booked this weekend to the Red Cross Hurricane 2004 Relief Operation. For each guest taking a $43 adult half-day trip, $10 will be contributed, and $5 will be donated for every child under 12 rafting for $31.

Owner Kevin Schneider hopes to raise at least $2,000 for the cause. “This is a busy holiday weekend, so we thought this would be a good way to raise some money to help the displaced families,” he said. The company can be reached at (970) 945-6737.At the Ritz-Carlton Club’s Willow Creek Bistro at Highlands, executive chef Matthew Zubrod is raising money for the Red Cross by cooking a Big Easy classic – gumbo. Today from noon to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. he’ll be dishing it up on the Hyman Avenue mall in Aspen outside the club’s gallery. Donations for the Red Cross will be accepted.In addition, all month Willow Creek Bistro will offer gumbo for $5 a bowl with proceeds going to the Red Cross.The city of Aspen is asking residents who want to volunteer, make a donation or help the relief effort to call Linda Gerdenich, director of community relations, at 920-5082 or 274-2478.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com