COLORADO SPRINGS. Preschoolers who shared snacks out of their backpacks with firefighters were a small part of an outpouring of generosity that happened when the Divine Redeemer community mobilized to help a member of the parish staff who lost her home in a wildfire.
Parish receptionist Mindy Emick and her husband Tim lost their home and most of their possessions in a wildfire that swept through open country south of Fountain and east of I-25 in April.
According to local news reports, what became known as the “117” fire began April 17 near mile marker 117 along I-25 south of Fountain. Fanned by high winds, the fire burned for two days until it was brought under control, consuming 42,795 acres and 24 homes and displacing 16 families, including the Emicks.
The afternoon of April 17, Tim Emick was working at his business, Timberline Landscaping, when he received a call from a neighbor inquiring after his safety. Emick rushed to his home in southern El Paso County, but shortly after he arrived, the house ignited in flames. Although the Emicks had done fire mitigation on their property, it is believed that an airborne ember landed in the attic of the home and started the fire. Emick watched as the home burned to the ground.
Wednesday, the news of the Emicks’ loss circulated in the Divine Redeemer community. Faber asked the family what the community could do to help. The Emicks responded that they did not need anything — thankfully no one in their family was hurt and their animals were safe. However, they asked for donations of water and snacks for the firefighters who were still battling the blaze.
At 3 p.m. that day, Faber sent an email notifying Divine Redeemer families that the school would be collecting water and snacks for the firefighters, and that families could drop off donations during carpool the following morning. What happened the next morning was astounding, Faber said.
“By 8 a.m. Thursday, many more people than normal were lined up (at the area in the parking lot where students are dropped off for school). People had gotten on social media and spread the message. As each child got out, they brought bottles of water or snacks. The pile grew rapidly as students came to school. Some Divine Redeemer alumni who are now students at St. Mary’s High School also came with donations,” Faber said.
Probably the most touching moment came when a couple of preschoolers, upon seeing the large pile of snacks and water and realizing that they didn’t bring anything to share, reached into their backpacks, took out their own snacks, and placed them in the pile, Faber said.
The eighth-grade students helped bring the food and water into the sanctuary where, at the school Mass, Divine Redeemerpastor Father Brian Roeseler blessed them. After Mass, the students packed up the donations, which filled two pickup trucks and a trailer, for delivery to the firefighters.
“It really made me proud to be a part of such a generous community. It is amazing how we all worked together to make a difference,” said eighth-grader Ashley Wallau.
“I was happy to help the firefighters stay hydrated. They are such heroes,” said fourth-grader Cole Sunday.
The Emicks are longtime members of the parish and plan to rebuild their home.