During the nearly three weeks that much of Paonia's water users were under a state-mandated boil-water order, volunteers of all ages came from throughout the North Fork area and beyond to help. For more than two weeks they distributed water at Town Hall, answered questions, checked in on the elderly and shut-ins, and offered their professional services and vehicles.
Within an hour of calling Paonia High School assistant principal Karla Head, high school students were at Town Hall waiting for orders, said Debbie Kimball, local volunteer coordinator for the Southwest Incident Management Team responding to the emergency.
Kimball could not have accomplished everything without all the volunteers. In all, more than 50 individuals contributed almost 500 hours of time to ensure that everyone's needs were met.
One group of youth volunteers was more than eager to put their emergency response training to use.
"It's very rare that we get to do a lot of this work," said Cadet 1st Lieutenant Jack Jones, 17, with the Delta County Civil Air Patrol Squadron. Cadets came from throughout the county to assist the town, and presented the colors at a March 5 community meeting at the Paradise Theatre.
The official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP's main focus is in training cadets in search and rescue skills for the Air Force, said Jones. In the event of natural and other disasters, they are trained to assist law enforcement, fire and other agencies.
But opportunities to use their training are rare, said Jones. Compared to squadrons on the Front Range, the Western Slope has few disasters, and fewer opportunities to respond.
Under the supervision of squadron deputy commander Amber Kendall Lage, cadets helped distribute water at Town Hall, going the extra mile to help load containers into cars, and in some cases, following people home to help unload it, said Kimball.
They also helped out extensively at the Creek Vista Assisted Living and Paonia Care Center, made sure no one threw garbage in the town's plastic recycling bin. "Basically, they did anything needed and had great attitudes while doing it," said Kimball.