Preserving the spirit of community in Jamestown #COflood

Jamestown September 2013 via The Denver Post
Jamestown September 2013 via The Denver Post

From the Associated Press (Colleen Slevin) via The Pueblo Chieftain:

For a few precious hours every Saturday night, Jamestown, in the foothills of the Rockies, looks more like it did before the floods.

Those who stayed after September’s devastation and those who had to leave for rental homes in nearby Boulder return once a week to the Jamestown Mercantile — the town’s meeting place for more than 100 years — to eat together. Then, they push back the tables to dance to live music.

And this fall, as the cleanup and rebuilding continue, the gatherings have been a place to give thanks.

“Everybody just walks through there with the biggest smile on their face,” owner Rainbow Shultz said of “the Merc,” which boasts of having served miners, painted ladies and horse thieves in its early days.

The storm destroyed a fifth of the former mining town’s homes and both bridges over Little James Creek. During the week, federal aid workers outnumber residents and lines of trucks hauling away tons of debris pass down the main street.

Before the flood, finding community was easy in the town of 300, something people say made the town more than just another scenic spot. Residents never hesitated to ask their neighbors for help, and it wasn’t hard to run across someone telling an interesting story.

Karen Zupko, who lost most of her house to the waters, said parties started easily. Whenever she and her neighbor pulled up chairs to a bridge over the creek with some cheese, crackers and something to drink, others were bound to join them.

Jamestown’s children were tight, too, attending classes in a small schoolhouse.

The flood cut off access to the school and split those children up. Six students now attend classes in Boulder, where their parents moved. But the community worked to keep the remaining students in Jamestown together.

For several weeks, 15 students studied in the living and dining room of one student’s home, then moved to a Christian retreat center. A holiday play uniting all the students is one of several programs planned to keep them connected in the coming weeks.

“I feel like they’re growing up with a family of 300 people watching them,” said Shultz, who has lived in town for 12 years and has two children, aged 3 and 6.

Coyote Gulch’s grandfather was born in Jamestown during the early mining days so the town has always been special to me.

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