Days after the worst wildfire in Colorado history, which destroyed close to a thousand homes and damaged many others on December 30, 2021, Adventist churches around Denver were asking how they could best serve and show love to a community that has lost so much.
Avista Adventist Hospital reached out to three churches — Boulder, Campion, and Littleton — asking if they would be willing to host a donation drive to assist associates with the basic hygiene items needed days after they lost everything in the Marshall Fire. The donation drive wasn’t a normal one, however, with the typical several weeks to plan and bring in items; instead, employees needed the items immediately. The turnaround time would be two days, which left leaders wondering if this could be pulled off.
“Stephanie Lind, director of [the Diabetes Institute at] AdventHealth, contacted me about asking Littleton to gather supplies to assist the fire loss victims associated with Avista hospital,” Chris Morris, interim lead pastor at Littleton Seventh-day Adventist Church, said. “This was on Sunday, January 2. She stated she needed to pick up the items Tuesday, January 4. I remember my initial thoughts being, ‘Sure, I’ll put the word out, but I don’t know that a lot of items will come in with only three days’ notice.’ Boy, was I wrong!”
Morris explained that the church gave generously in a very short time. “In those three days, enough items were brought in to fill a mid-size car, plus some. It was awesome seeing the immediate and compassionate response of the Littleton church family.”
A similar situation unfolded at Boulder Seventh-day Adventist Church. “In the midst of tragedy, it is so heartening to be part of a group that includes Avista hospital and Boulder Adventist church,” Alicia Patterson, wife of Geoff Patterson, senior pastor at Boulder, said. “Soon after the devastating fires that surrounded, but didn’t consume, the hospital, Suzie Sendros, wife of Isaac Sendros, CEO of Avista hospital, sent out a message saying they could use toiletries for the Avista employees affected by the fire — and soon!
“In less than 24 hours, our members responded, bringing bag after bag of supplies. These are the kind of people whose hearts long to respond when there is a loss. Thank you, Susie, for giving us an outlet," Patterson said.
Local pastors gathered on a Zoom videoconference meeting a week after the destructive wildfires to strategize the next steps as they continued to look for ways to assist the community. In the meeting, Steve Hamilton, former Rocky Mountain Conference youth director, who three years ago experienced a similar situation when a wildfire destroyed his town of Paradise, California, said that the process of helping would be a long-term commitment, explaining that in the first two months, the community needs everyday items. Then, for the next four months, the focus would need to shift to mental health and wellbeing and temporary housing. Afterward, the church would need to be prepared to help with housing and finding ways to bring back what the community lost in terms of area-wide gatherings.
Churches are already planning other community outreach events. One event scheduled for the end of January is an area-wide youth outreach led by Boulder church associate pastor Jay Murdoch.
Suzie Sendros reflected on social media on the donation drive, saying, “Thank your members. Big virtual hugs from us! You are the hands and feet of Jesus — the items spilling out of the car is unbelievable.”