by Marissa Lorenz
Julie Savage, co-owner of Kremmling’s Dawgs Abound and Petrel Industries, has been nominated as a hometown hero for her unerring volunteerism during this year of tumult.
Savage and her husband, Jason, moved to Kremmling from Omaha, Nebraska, in February 2019. They were looking for a community where they could pursue the outdoor mountain activities that they enjoyed and which offered an affordable place to live and work.
Just over a year later, however, the COVID-19 pandemic would also become a factor for the local and global communities, increasing food, housing, and employment insecurity for many individuals and their families.
Soon after, Savage saw a Facebook posting from Grand County’s Outbreak of Kindness, begun to help match up community services and needs during the Coronavirus concern. It was asking for volunteers for such tasks as shopping or errands for seniors or those at medical risk and distributing food donations to families in need.
Although volunteers presented from all over the county, it soon became clear that the organization needed a town leader for Kremmling activities. And Savage stepped up to be that dedicated person.
“I was happy to take it on. The effort was really designed for COVID-19,” explains Savage. “But with Grand County doing well and COVID numbers remaining low for so long, it was apparent that Kremmling had more of a need for those people who had lost their jobs and were suffering financially.”
And nearly eight months later, she indicates that the need has remained consistent. Meal distribution continues and, after initially disseminating donated food goods at Big Shooters, Savage’s store, Dawgs Abound, would become the pick-up location, “ensuring greater privacy in a small town where people don’t always want to be seen asking for or getting help.”
Savage consistently gives out about 13 boxes of food a week. And she notes that many of the same people are still in need of help months later, being affected both by issues such as job loss or loss of daycare, though she saw three new people just last week. She senses that there may be more people who need the help but are unaware of the resource.
And then the East Troublesome Fire happened, forcing the abrupt evacuation of thousands of homes and leaving many in the community without basic needs, including food, clothing, and toiletries.
Outbreak of Kindness immediately began collecting donations and partnering with the County to distribute them to evacuees, first from Fraser Valley Elementary and then at the official Disaster Assistance Center in the Inn at Silver Creek.
“It is absolutely crazy!” exclaims Savage. “I still can’t wrap my head around it. It is so devastating and overwhelming and awesome all at the same time–the number of people who had to leave their homes within 5 or 10 minutes and only the clothes on their backs!
“We’re trying to give them a little comfort and provide some of the things they need, like food, clothing, and toiletries, to help get them through this tough time. Some people are in need of all three; some just need food or warm clothing. We’re focusing on those things, where we have gained expertise.”
And she shares stories of community cooperation and generosity and stories of families finding blessings amid the tragedy, such as finding closeness and support in each other. “Families are talking and playing board games,” she notes. “They’re not sitting in front of Xboxes. They’re sitting with each other.”
“It has done me a lot of good too,” Savage says thoughtfully. Though she says she’s volunteered her whole life, coaching softball and soccer for her kids and being a Girl Scout leader. The work with Outbreak for Kindness has made her an integral part of the Grand County community.
“Helping has always been in my nature,” she concludes. “I love being there and helping people out. There are a lot of people struggling, for lack of fair wage or from disaster or something else. It’s important to help each other out so that, hopefully, one day, all of that will be balanced out.”
But Savage is already creating that balance in Grand County.
“Julie has been there from the very beginning of working with Outbreak of Kindness to be there and care for her neighbors during COVID-19 and now the fires,” describes fellow organizer, Reverend Sondra Tilsley. “She is determined to help others. When we switched to help evacuees, she was there constantly organizing, reaching out and listening to evacuees and those who have lost their homes, doing everything she could to find supplies that are needed most in this time. Julie is a gift to this county!”
November 5 is the last day of the Disaster Assistance Center in Granby. Outbreak of Kindness will continue to distribute food and clothing to evacuees and other local residents in need.
Outbreak of Kindness is asking for a “pause” of material donations until they process and distribute what they have. They are encouraging monetary donations in order to “serve immediate, emergency need to evacuee families who are uninsured, waiting for applications for grant money to come through, or are in desperate need.” To donate, go to gcruralhealth.ejoinme.org/…/60210/Default.aspx and select donation category Outbreak of Kindness.
They will continue to provide donated food and clothing to satellite donation centers at the Grand Lake Community Center and the Hot Sulphur Springs Town Hall, and are working on “a third satellite donation center in Granby so evacuees will have ongoing access to whatever they may need.”
“We will continue to need the love and help of our volunteer community as we transition to clean up, rebuilding, and the healing that involves; both for those helping and being helped,” declared a recent Facebook post. “We are working to improve our platform, communication and general volunteer structure as things evolve, and are so grateful for your willingness to serve.” To sign up, go to the state platform at sparkthechangecolorado.org.
And to thank Julie Savage, know more about her, her pet memorial or machining businesses–or to thank her for her service–go to dawgsabound.com or petrel-ind.com, or stop by their shared workspace at 215 Eagle Avenue in Kremmling.