Ellie Cole, The Gazette
Several weeks ago Carrie Steele was driving home when she saw smoke coming from the windows of her apartment and firetrucks outside. Her daughter then called to tell her that there was a fire on their floor two doors down and across the hall.
"Run out, get out the door," Steele told her daughter. When her daughter and her friend who was visiting were unable to breathe in the apartment, they grabbed Steele's dog and were able to escape down the stairs. Unfortunately, they lost their cat in the fire.
Steele said she and her daughter were left with nothing and nowhere to live. Her 9-year-old granddaughter told her the American Red Cross would help them.
"'Grandma, when there is a catastrophe like this, you go to the Red Cross,'" Steele said her granddaughter said. "I was kind of blown away. And I may have thought of it myself, but because of the shock of the situation, I didn't know what to do. My neighbor confirmed it for me."
According to the Empty Stocking Fund website, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado helps support victims in disasters, assists in emergencies through international, national and community-based programs and supports the military and their families.
"It was just devastating, and the Red Cross really came through," Steele said. "It made a lot of things feel more comfortable."
The Red Cross gave Steele and her daughter some money that helped them get through the challenging time. Her apartment complex also helped by moving them into a new home in the same complex.
She and her daughter then went to Westside CARES.
"The whole experience with Westside CARES was enjoyable and very comforting and it helped to maintain a little balance," she said. "They gave us some food and all." The food they received helped fill up their cupboard for almost two weeks.
Westside Cares is a nonprofit collaboration of 22 religious fellowships of the west side of El Paso County. They work to provide services to those in need during difficult times.
"I've known about Westside CARES for years since my daughter was little," Steele said. "They have helped us on and off. They do care and I care about them."
Steele said she doesn't always need help, but it is reassuring to know its available.
"It's rare, but they're there when you need it."