FedEx EarthSmart Joins Forces with Rocky Mountain Field Institute
For two weeks in June 2013, the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history inhabited the Black Forest. The fire was fully contained after the loss of 486 homes, 2 lives and thousands of acres of land. FedEx employees owned six of those homes that were lost and many children of FedEx employees attended Pine Creek High School, which was the most affected school by the fire.
Karen Vendl, IT Project Manager supporting FedEx Freight, has shared the story of her son Jake and his efforts to raise money and awareness for his classmates at Pine Creek High School who were directly impacted by the fire. Jake and Karen were en route to the Waldo Canyon area to assist with an EarthSmart restoration event for the fire that destroyed the area a year before when Jake shared with his mother that he was devastated that he was unable to help his own classmates who had lost their homes and been directly impacted by the Black Forest fire. The idea of helping continued to consume Jake’s mind and he thought of a fundraising idea the very day that he was helping to reconstruct the Waldo Canyon area. He decided to create and sell shirts in order to help students replace their destroyed school items like books, athletic uniforms, letterman jackets, laptops, etc. The shirt sales totaled $5,000 for Jake’s classmates and the shirts continue to be sold and worn on a regular basis.
In addition to the students and families of Pine Creek High School, many others were affected too. Steve Schleper, Senior Technical Analyst, at the Colorado Springs FedEx office and many of his co-workers were encouraged to work from home during the spread of the fire because of the proximity to the office.
Seventy-one volunteers and 359.5 volunteer hours later, the Black Forest had 2.25 acres restored by the collaboration of EarthSmart and the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) individuals. In order to accomplish this, volunteers helped to seed rapid-grow grasses to help control erosion in the area and strategically placed burned trees in run-off zones to create log erosion barriers. By minimizing the erosion in the affected areas, it is possible to efficiently regrow vegetation and thus stabilize the soils. Although this process takes years to complete, the work initiated by EarthSmart and RMFI played a critical part in the early phases. The work to restore this area is ongoing, but is continuously bringing the community closer together.