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Community Pulls Together To Help Those Who Lost Homes In Fire

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) - Ashes where homes once stood -- that's all that remains of more than a dozen houses destroyed in the Crystal fire west of Fort Collins. Some homeowners lost everything.

As families try to deal with their huge loss, a community is coming together to give them hope.

The Crystal fire burned nearly 3,000 acres and 13 families lost their homes. When they were first evacuated they sought shelter at Big Thompson Elementary School where students and their families rallied to help the victims.

On Sunday Kelly O'Donnell looked at the remains of what used to be her home. One of the items she found was a crystal necklace.

"I worked for a whole year before I lost it in a campfire at a friend's house and then she found it 6 months later," O'Donnell said. "And now I found it again; it's been through two fires."

The crystal she can call her own, but the rest of her belongings, even the clothes on her back, belong to strangers.

"Two days after the fire I got to my desk and there was already some bags of stuff there; and I was just overwhelmed," she said.

Donations started flooding into Big Thompson Elementary School the minute a "call to action" e-mail circulated. People started collecting when they found out many who had lost their homes weren't insured.

"I just can't even talk about it, I just don't have (insurance)," O'Donnell said.

Donators started thinking about the little things homeowners would need, like food, toiletries and clothing. But small things led to larger things.

"I have a lady who has a whole entire house. Her father had passed away, he was a firefighter," Stephanie Hancock said. "She said, 'Everything in the house, let them have whatever in the house.'"

Donations will be available until May, but O'Donnell isn't looking that far ahead. Now, she lives in the moment.

"What do we really need in life? We need friends, we need love, we need food. We do need shelter, but it doesn't have to be deluxe," she said.

All the donations have been moved from Big Thompson Elementary to the Wilderness Retreat, which is less than a mile away. After May begins, the remainder of the donations will be sold at a yard sale. All of the proceeds will be given to the fire victims.

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