UNITED STATES—(June 4, 2013) She started small, from a junk shop on South Townsend Avenue, collecting items to be donated to victims of Hurricane Katrina. More than five years later, Jan France is far from home—in Florida as of last week–and the shop is just a memory. However, the mission to help those whose lives have been torn apart by disaster lives on. Today, France is CEO of America’s Disaster Relief, a 501 (c )(3) a Montrose-based non-profit organization that follows the need for human services in the wake of natural disaster—helping recovery efforts in everything from wildfires and tornadoes here in Colorado, to hurricane-ravaged New York and New Jersey, to Moore, Oklahoma, where America’s Disaster Relief is partnering with another non-profit organization to bring aid and relief where it is needed most.
“Because of the distance, cost of fuel, having spent so much on SANDY victims and having emptied our warehouse supplies following SANDY, we are teaming up with a friend, Mike Baumgartner of Disaster Assistance,” France said in an update last week. “Mike is already in the area—he has been in West Texas since the explosion (in April) and has a mobile kitchen, tent, and all the supplies.”
Making the most of available resources through partnerships only makes sense to France, who has worked in 11 states since 2009.
“America’s Disaster Relief in not on an ego trip,” she said. “We like to team up with those who have the same honest work ethics we do, those who value your donations and spend them wisely, those interested in getting the job done of helping others.”
Baumgartner has already established a relationship with the Central Church of Christ (411 SW Fourth St.) in Moore, Oklahoma, France noted, and will be assisting in all phases of relief work, from outreach, meals, food and other supply distribution, to cleanup and repairs and volunteer coordination. Volunteers are reminded to bring their own cots and personal items.
“So many of our faithful donors are already sending in donations marked for OKLAHOMA,” France said. “These funds will be sent to the account for Mike to purchase food and the supplies to feed the thousands a day he is equipped to feed…food is the FIRST thing people need along with shelter.”
Although the group remains small and efficient, putting its funds toward those it serves rather than publicity, America’s Disaster Relief reaches out to friends in Montrose and other communities through blast email updates and newsletters, and through the Western Colorado Disaster Relief web site www.wcdisasterrelief.org. Western Colorado Disaster Relief was among a handful of worthy local non-profits honored in this year’s Wells Fargo Community grants cycle.
France, who at age 68 has retired three times, is currently working to raise funds in Florida, but the Oklahoma project is already up and running and feeding 3,000 to 5,000 people a day, she said. Here in Montrose, in-kind donations are greatly needed, and can be accepted by in-kind donation manager Mercedes Rodriquez, at 970-779-4086.
“Maybe you have some old dishes you don’t need, or an old frying pan,” France said. “When somebody has lost everything, they don’t care if the bowls and the salad plates don’t match.