We're Not Worthy

Charity began at home. This home.

Jones arrived at Mile High just in time to help with the point-in-time study, an annual count of the metro area's homeless that this year put the count -- once all those layers were added in -- at around 10,000. While she was at the Brandon Center, a local shelter, one woman asked if she was homeless. "I said no, but I know how lucky I am," Jones says. She'd been downsized, then was out of a job for a year, and without a family to rely on, she could have been one of those people speaking before council Monday night. "A lot of people in that situation don't have anyone who can help them out," she says.

Except us.

You Must Memorialize This

The living are not the only ones competing with Katrina's victims. As each disaster hits -- 9/11, the tsunami, now the hurricanes -- plans for the Columbine Memorial are scaled back. Initially, the Foothills Park and Recreation District hoped to have a monument in place in Clement Park by mid-2001, less than two years after the worst school shooting in this country's history. But the families of the victims asked the district to put the project on hold while another memorial -- the creation of an atrium where the school's library had been -- was completed.

So it wasn't until April 2003 that the 28-member Columbine Memorial Committee came up with a design -- a reflective monument in a grove of trees -- that worked for everyone. After 9/11, though, fundraising had lagged, and although former president Bill Clinton delivered on his promise to help, the project was still far short of its $3 million goal -- and nowhere close to being completed by April 20, 2004, the fifth anniversary of the shootings.

Then, after the sixth anniversary came and went without a memorial, the committee "took a look at it from both the fundraising side and the cost estimate side," explains Bob Easton, director of the Foothills district. "Through a meeting held with the families, we reduced the construction cost from $2.5 million to $1.5 million." Expensive staircases to the top of the hill were eliminated, as was a substantial water feature, but "we essentially preserved the core area, the ring of remembrance," he says. That's where writings chosen by the families and dedicated to the victims will be inscribed.

The committee has about a million of the $1.5 million needed for this scaled-back version -- a third in cash and pledges, a third in in-kind service donations, and $330,000 from the Hope Fund that financed the library-rebuilding effort. Right after Labor Day, it planned to announce a new campaign to raise the rest of the money, reaching out nationwide for 25,000 donations of $20 each.

And then Katrina hit.

"It's certainly created challenges for us," Easton admits. The committee decided to postpone announcing its new fundraising effort (donations can be made at www.columbinememorial.org) and spring groundbreaking goal until mid-October, "and then hopefully we'll be off and on our way," Easton says. "We're about $500,000 short, but back in May we were about $1.5 million short."

And if another disaster should strike? "Even if we're not successful with the additional $500,000, the intent is to move forward with the million dollars that we do have," he replies, "although we'd certainly like to implement the full plan."

But you know what they say about the best-laid plans...

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