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The Pueblo Chieftain Online

September 12, 2005

Congressman John Salazar talks with Joshua Suber (left), who fled Louisiana with his family on a flight arranged by Cullen Canazares of Fairplay. Listening are Suber's wife, Renee Barnes (right), and daughters Hysendra, Reneka, Renisha and Joshlynn.

Men of action

‘Just do it’ should be slogan of group


Some of us look at the devastation Hurricane Katrina left in the Gulf Coast and wish we could help. Some of us write a check, or maybe write our names down to help if and when displaced people arrive in our town.

And some leap into the maelstrom and get to work.

Two examples of that attitude are Todd Clevenger of the upscale Denver suburb of Highland Park and Cullen Canazares of the small mountain town of Fairplay, who met each other Friday at a lunch for some refugees who have arrived in Pueblo.

Actually, three of the displaced families from Louisiana were led here by Clevenger. Another family of seven arrived by an airplane flight arranged by Canazares to stay in a home arranged by Doug Sterner of Pueblo.

Canazares and Clevenger both got involved in the hurricane relief effort on the spur of the moment.

"We just wanted to open our home to a family," said Clevenger's wife, Karmen. "So he jumped in our Navigator and drove down there. Within 24 hours we had placed 100 families."

He led 10 of those families back to Colorado in a convoy, to homes awaiting them in La Junta, Pueblo and Highlands Ranch, and this weekend he plans to return in a bus to bring back more people.

Canazares, co-owner of a dial-up Internet service provider, was driving his mother to a family funeral in the Midwest and listening to the news about Katrina on the car radio.

"My mom said, ‘I could take one of those families,’ and my wife and I had been thinking about the same thing," Canazares said. "So I called my wife on the cell phone and said we were skipping the funeral and driving to Texas."

When he arrived in Lubbock, he found that preparations were being made for refugees but none had arrived. "So rather than drive another 10 hours to Houston, I decided the best I could do was come home and help organize things. I came home and put up a Web site, and since last Saturday, 300 people have registered."

His Web site describes its purpose as "grass-roots organizations working with relief organizations, but not waiting for them."

Meanwhile, Clevenger had arrived in Alexandria, La., where a motel manager had set up a shelter for people who had fled New Orleans in the evacuation order. He packed seven cars and his own with members of 10 families who came to homes in La Junta, Pueblo and the Denver area.

Delmy Cuevas (left) came to Pueblo in a convoy from Louisiana with her mother, Bibiana Templet, and daughters Vanessa and Clarissa, in a company led by Todd Clevenger of Highlands Ranch.

"Todd is an innovator, a person who can walk into chaos and get it organized," his wife said. "He's taking three weeks off (the Clevengers have a consulting firm in Centennial called GBSynergy) and working full time at this right now. And it's really working. These people are becoming active members of the community, and within six months they'll be able to help other people."

Canazares estimates that there are 450 homes that have been offered in Colorado, with room for about 2,000 people.

Brainstorming at the lunch on Friday, the men agreed that a critical need in this ad hoc relocation effort is more volunteers who are trained and organized, to go to the cities in the South and bring people back here.

"We've had a lot of transportation volunteers offering to take buses and vans down there, but I'm holding off calling them because we don't have the people in the area to make the contacts," Canazares said.

Despite the confusion, he added, "It's overwhelming when you see the Web sites, posting after posting, an outpouring of compassion that's really just amazing.

"We haven't done an ounce of fundraising or anything. It's just people getting down and doing it."



Publish Date Thursday, September 12, 2005
©1996-2005 The pueblo Chieftain Online



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