Forward and backward |

Forward and backward

Hope and despair mix after Country Mall fire

Collin Smith

— Although Sandra Kruczek might not be able to see how long the tunnel is, she can see light, and she’s been given some candles.

Kruczek and her husband, Ron, owned and operated the High Country Veterinary Clinic that was housed inside the Country Mall.

The mall burned down Nov. 25, displacing 12 businesses, government agencies and social service organizations.

“There’s hope in the midst of darkness,” Kruczek said. “And goodness. The outpouring of love and support from this community has been amazing. You know you have friends, but when something like this happens, when people come out like this, you see the world with different eyes.”

Despite the pull to look behind them, the Kruczeks want to focus on moving ahead.

“This week, we’re trying to figure out what does a person do after something like this?” Kruczek said. “You have to look forward, but there’s a ton of work to do. We lost everything. And it’s not just the info and the files; these are peoples lives and their pets that were damaged.”

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First National Bank of the Rockies, 600 Yampa Ave., is accepting contributions on behalf of the Kruczeks in the Kruczek Fire Benefit Account.

Like others, the Kruczeks plan to reopen.

The Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center and Horizons, an organization for adults with disabilities, have moved into temporary offices.

“It took some time, but things are coming together,” Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen said. “I felt really good that our day adult program, one of the offices destroyed in the fire, was only canceled one day, and that was the Monday we found out about the fire.

“Thankfully, our clients haven’t felt the impact of the fire.”

The Country Mall housed both adult and child services offices for Horizons. A local clinic offered temporary space, and other community members have offered help in different ways, Mizen said.

“People have come forward with offers of help that we all really appreciate,” the director said. “Offers from all over the community.”

Horizons ended up being able to take advantage of extra space in another one of its buildings on Breeze Street. The group planned before the fire to move into an office that is partially ready now.

The biggest obstacle for the group remains reconstructing business and client records, Case Manager Susan Kime said.

Those records are required for annual Medicaid renewals, which many Horizons clients depend on.

Horizons has a three-month schedule to recreate those records with the state, Mizen said.

The Pregnancy Center also had the fortune of relocating soon after the loss, Executive Director Debbie Rudd said.

First Lutheran Church called Rudd before she had a chance to go see the damage, she said.

The church provided the Pregnancy Center with its Fellowship Hall, a welcome, if temporary, relief at its 580 Green St. location.

The center’s permanent building search is ongoing, but Rudd will not fret about it.

“We plan to be here a short while until something else comes along, and that will all happen when it’s meant to be,” Rudd said. “We are up and running and open. We wanted to get re-established for the girls first.”

The community has come to the Pregnancy Center’s aid, as well, Rudd added, offering clothes and other items useful for new mothers.

First National Bank of the Rockies also started a relief account for the Pregnancy Center. Those wishing to contribute should ask for the Yampa Valley Crisis Pregnancy Center Fire Benefit Account.

The original phone numbers for the Veterinary Clinic, Horizons and the Pregnancy Center have been transferred to their new locations.

Kruczek wanted to reach out to anyone affected by the fire with a Bible verse that helped her and her husband cope:

“Beauty for ashes. Joy for tears. Praise for despair,” Kruczek read from Isaiah 61:3-7.

The community’s outreach proved those words, Kruczek said.

“It’s about hope,” she said. “All this – it’s not all about evil. It’s about goodness.”

Loss at government offices

The fire spared as little in the Country Mall’s government offices as elsewhere.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture relocated temporarily to a modular unit behind the Bureau of Land Management office, 455 Emerson St.

Four agencies with varied causes worked out of the USDA office, including the Colorado First Conservation District, National Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Rural Development.

All four operate out of the BLM site, said Paul Billig, USDA range conservationist.

The agencies are working to overcome fire loss.

“We’re trying not to let it stop what we’re doing,” Billig said. “We’re utilizing what people have to serve what our customers need.”

The USDA can be contacted at its temporary office or at 826-5102.

Colorado Department of Corrections is directing those who used the state’s parole office at the Country Mall to the Grand Junction location, 2516 Foresight Circle, unit 9.

A representative from the DOC Grand Junction office could not be reached by press time. That office can be reached at 970-255-9126.