Alamosa’s Test, Part I

By Robin Leist
Executive Director of La Llave Family Resource Center in Alamosa, CO.

JVA Note: The La Llave Family Resource Center is a client of JVA’s. We wanted to run this heartwarming post written by its ED a couple weeks ago about the recent salmonella outbreak in Alamosa. Once again, it demonstrates the critical role nonprofits play in their community, especially in a time of crisis. (To read the follow-up, click here.)

Alamosa made the national news in March, with the salmonella outbreak in the city. Those of us who live or work in Alamosa have all been affected in one way or another. At this writing, over 300 cases have been reported, with 85 confirmed with salmonella, but many more of us were mildly sick, or experienced just a few symptoms and chose not to go to the doctors. Every day the local newspaper reports that more cases have been confirmed.

The new Executive Director of the Family Resource Center Association, Mark Kling, came to visit Alamosa the day before the salmonella infection was confirmed. He went with our staff members to one of our favorite restaurants, happily ate a great lunch and drank the water. Apparently he survived his visit!

My mother-in-law was in the hospital for ten days with confirmed salmonella. She will never fully regain her strength. For the elderly and the very young, the toll is huge. Our hospitals were full. Rooms had to be disinfected with heavy Clorox solutions and patients were wheeled into the halls for extended periods of time. Nurses had to haul water from outside where the water trucks were parked, take them to the floors and boil that water to sterilize their instruments. We all put plastic bags over our faucets and hauled water into our work sites or homes. Even as the threat diminishes, we still keep the bags on our faucets.

Schools were closed. Restaurants suffered. Even with Public Health certification that they were using only bottled water and disposable utensils, people stayed away. They still do. Alamosa was a ghost town for two weeks.

As with other areas that have experienced natural disasters, people step up. Over 150 volunteers worked on Easter Sunday to put notices on every single front, back and side door in all of Alamosa. People who had safe water opened their homes and their showers to those who were in need. The Salvation Army in Denver gave vouchers for paper goods for families who could not wash dishes. Comfort Inn, west of town, has its own well and opened showers up to anyone who would just bring their own toiletries and towels. The response from Wal Mart, Safeway and City Market, our only big grocery stores, was phenomenal. Bottled water pallets filled the front aisles within a few hours of the announcement. There was no panic, just people working together to help one another.

Interestingly, there were some people who refused to accept any help. No showers, no food, nothing. We have wondered why. Is it pride? Fear of accepting help and looking, therefore, needy? When it comes to helping each other, fear and pride get in the way of solutions.

We all laughed when we heard that the city might bring portable showers to our city parks so people could line up and shower with cold truck water from trucks.

We all cried when we heard that our agricultural produce was being rejected by other states, even though the farm it came from was far from city water. We laughed at each other when we pretended to notice strange body smells. We hugged each other when we heard of another sick child.

The La Llave FRC staff held our own food drive. We supplied 9 families with prepared food. We didn’t “let it be known.” These families are our families and we help take care of our own families and neighbors. That is what a Family Resource Center does.

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