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Valley Companies Offer Help to Areas Affected by Wallow Fire

Monday, June 20, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rhette Baughman
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Valley companies offer help to areas affected by Wallow fire
Premium content from Phoenix Business Journal - by Lynn Ducey
Date: Friday, June 17, 2011, 3:00am MST

As firefighters continue their efforts to contain the Wallow fire in northeastern Arizona, Valley businesses and organizations are reaching out to help their neighbors in the high country.

The blaze was estimated at press time to have burned more than 478,000 acres and be about 20 percent contained. It is the largest wildfire in Arizona’s recorded history. "As this has progressed, the priority has been to get people out of the communities and out of the way of the fire,” said David Drennon, spokesman for the Arizona Small Business Association.

As firefighters gain control and residents are allowed back into their homes, Drennon said ASBA is working with other groups to develop programs to help businesses there.

"We have some plans to hold some type of an event to focus on the needs of business and how they recover after the fire, how they get their businesses moving again. But at this point, it’s very difficult to say what the impact (of the fire) will be,” Drennon said.

ASBA is developing a Business Assistance Kit for those affected by the fire. Organization leaders also hope to attract corporate partners for the effort. "It’s very important that we make sure businesses there are healthy to protect jobs in the area,” Drennon said.

In addition, ASBA is looking to act as a conduit for small-business owners to help their counterparts in Apache, Navajo, Graham and Greenlee counties. "We want to be a resource so owners can come together as a small-business consortium and reach out and give back to the community,” Drennon said.

As ASBA develops its plan, businesses across metro Phoenix have launched individual efforts to help residents and animals displaced by the wildfire. Through a relationship with Phoenix-based Villa La Paws, Buddy Meal International Inc. has made contributions to help animals and their owners affected by fire. "We sent up 2,300 bottles of purified water, 2,000 pounds of kibble and 2,250 Buddy Meals,” said Eileen Proctor, the company’s director of sales and marketing.

Buddy Meals are portable kits for dogs that include water, dog food, treats, a feeding bowl and a waste bag. Proctor estimates the retail value of the donation at more than $10,000. "Even though we are a small company, helping is about taking a look at your resources and leveraging them creatively,” she said. Villa La Paws, a pet resort and spa with three locations in the Valley, carries Buddy Meals.

Villa La Paws owner Tom Murray and a network of pet rescue organizations and volunteers helped arrange pickup of the items from Buddy Meal and their delivery to affected areas. Murray’s business locations also are serving as dropoff points for donations by customers to help shelters and pets. Volunteers are stopping by Villa La Paws locations to pick up donations as they travel north. "My customer is a four-legged customer, so it made a lot of sense to me to get involved early on in the rescue,” Murray said.

"When there’s a crisis, it’s amazing how people come together. People are calling and saying, ‘I have a truck, I have a trailer, I am driving up there, and I am coming over.” As Villa La Paws and Buddy Meal have developed their partnership, Bashas ’ Supermarkets Inc. has joined with the Salvation Army to act as a cash donation point for customers. During each transaction at any Bashas’-owned store in the state, including Food City and AJ’s Fine Foods, customers are being asked to donate $1 or more to fire relief efforts. Bashas’ spokeswoman Kristy Nied said thousands of dollars were donated in just the first few days.

In addition, the Valley-based grocery chain donated beverages for first responders, and the Bashas’ store in Eagar got special permission to remain open despite the town’s evacuation order. The location is serving as a gathering point and rest area for responders, Nied said. "This is just part of our philosophy. This is naturally ingrained in our business,” she said about the outreach. The Salvation Army and its volunteers have donated food and man-hours to help those affected by the fire.

PetSmart Charities, the nonprofit arm of the Phoenix-based retailer, has donated pet crates, leashes, collars, food and other items to shelters, said spokesman Steve Pawlowski. "Emergency relief is a key part of what we do,” he said. "We are certainly going to be there, and they are going to let us know if they need more donations.” Buddy Meal’s Proctor said she understands why businesses take the time to reach out to others and do what they can. "We can’t physically be there to put out that fire. We can’t be there to help people rebuild or pack their belongings. But we can take the most valuable resource we have, which is our product, and be able to contribute,” she said. "It’s about how you can help people in your community, even if that community is hundreds of miles away.” Nied agreed. "Even in a recession, even in a tough economy, we are all Arizonans, and we are all coming together to help,” she said.


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