After the fire: United Way of Reno County connects displaced families to resources

“[Support] is desperately needed to help us work with each survivor on a case-by-case basis to meet their recovery needs. This fire was so large that we did not have the capacity to handle all this work on our own.” – United Way of Reno County

In March 2022, an unattended brush fire severely damaged the Cottonwood Complex in Reno County, Kansas. The 12,000-acre fire claimed the life of one person and destroyed 35 homes, 92 outbuildings and 110 vehicles. Another 10 structures were also damaged.

The United Way of Reno County (UWRC) jumped in to provide ongoing support, such as volunteer support, financial assistance, spiritual support, and physical and psychological care, to those affected in Reno County.

With support from a CDP Midwest Early Recovery Fund grant, UWRC hired a disaster recovery coordinator to help families cope with the critical challenges posed by this disaster. They identified and developed resources to meet the needs of the families, coordinated survivor information from multiple agencies, identified vulnerable populations, and developed appropriate resources to meet their needs.

Amy Bretz, a UWRC case manager said, “We are grateful for the support provided by the Midwest Recovery Team.  The training and dollars provided made a big impact. I am so grateful to have been a part of this process with these survivors. It has been an honor to do this work. Thank you and your team for helping us in Reno County, Kansas, to do the right thing for our neighbors in need.”

Amy also shared a story a touching story about a client UWRC helped: “A couple built their own home 42 years ago. After the fire, they felt shock, grief, and anger. They have been working on healing and accepting the situation. Meeting with UWRC case managers and others providing services was important to them. It was also helpful to be with other families who lost their homes and support one another, to share ideas, fears and pain. The assistance given to them by VOAD and UWRC’s recovery team gave them much-needed hope and strength. During this experience, they learned to be resilient and never give up on their dreams. Now that they are on the road to recovery, they are determined to improve their lives.”

Check out this video from UWRC to learn more about their work:

CDP is proud to support UWRC’s efforts to help families recover from the Cottonwood Fire. It is inspiring to see UWRC’s impact on society and the positive change they are fostering.

(Photo: Cottonwood Fire survivor surveys the damage at his home. Image captured from United Way of Reno County video)