In the aftermath of the Black Forest Fire, the Long-Term Recovery Group, which was formed as a result of last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire, has transitioned to a Permanent Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster.

Persons and organizations wanting to become part of the permanent disaster relief effort are invited to a planning meeting July 16 at 10 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church at 219 E Bijou St.

In late June last year as the Waldo Canyon Fire waned, more than 40 organizations – non-profits, churches and human service providers – came together to create the Pikes Peak Region Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRG) to help meet the needs of those affected by the fire.

Recognizing the collective and positive impact of diverse organizations working together, members of the LTRG began discussing forming a Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster group. The goal is to have a ready resource for disaster response and recovery in the South Central Region of Colorado, an area covering El Paso, Teller, Park, Chaffee and Lake counties.

More than 50 organizations, many of which had already served in the response and recovery efforts for Waldo Canyon, are helping to form the VOAD. The new group does not involve government controls over the activities of participating organizations, many of which are faith-based, but city and county offices of emergency management have participated in the planning to this point in advisory roles.

Mark Rohlena, president of Catholic Charities, and co-facilitator of the LTRG along with Michelle Swanson, associate, Local Missions for First Presbyterian Church, sees the formation of VOAD as an important and timely reality.

“While the formation of the VOAD began well before the Black Forest Fire, the organizations that have been helping to form it are already responding to the needs of those affected,” Rohlena said. “The group will, undoubtedly, be a continued resource to people in need.”