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Coffee House 26 offers hand with water drive posted on 09/01/2020

When Amber Ford, owner of Welches coffee and book shop Coffee House 26, heard about the water crisis in Warm Springs she knew she wanted to raise awareness and provide assistance for the neighboring community on the other side of Mount Hood.

“Our thought process was, ‘There are 200 to 300 families, including older people and children, in a community being impacted by the pandemic without running water,’” Ford said. “We don’t know the details of the political issues, we just knew our neighbors needed help.”

After a temporary fix to a break in a water line failed at the end of June, thousands of Warm Springs community members, businesses, as well as a health clinic and senior housing on the reservation were left without safe tap water for more than seven weeks. Approximately 300 families were left with no running water at all. A reservation-wide boil notice was issued on June 25 and stayed in effect until Aug. 17.

Ford decided to head a donation drive to deliver water and other needed supplies to Warm Springs. She established Coffee House 26 as a community drop spot in Welches at the beginning of July.

“Welches is small, but as soon as we put (the donation drive) on Facebook I felt like I was getting calls constantly asking what people could do to help,” Ford said.

During July and the first weeks of August the drive gathered 450 sealed gallons of water, canned food, sanitizing and hygiene products, masks, as well as donations to a fund established to crowd source repairs for the water system. Ford and her partner, Tyler Lehmann, made a trip every other week to deliver the supplies to a drinking water distribution center operating out of an old school in Warm Springs.

Ford stated the water crisis was made even more drastic by a quarantine on the reservation during the end of July which was extended through Aug. 21.

During the quarantine the water donation center remained open to provide community members with a place to procure fresh water and use handwashing and shower stations.

The water boil notice was lifted for the reservation on Aug. 17 after repairs were completed to the water line.

“As of 4:30 p.m. Aug. 17, 2020 the EPA concurred with the results and recommendation of the water department to lift the boil water notice. Normal consumption of potable water can resume,” said Travis Wells, general manager of the Warm Springs Branch of Public Utilities, in a written statement.

Ford intends to continue to accept water and personal hygiene products at Coffee House 26 for Warm Springs.

“The community recently discovered that another section of the line is now broken, affecting more residents and leaving many without water,” Ford wrote in a follow-up email. “They are still battling COVID pretty intensely, and now they have an outbreak of fires surrounding the reservation.”

Ford stated she hopes continued support from Welches residents will help “ease some of the worries” for the neighboring community.

“It’s a weird time to ask (for donations) but people didn’t even blink,” Ford stated about the positive community support for the drive.

Coffee House 26 is located at 67211 Hwy. 26 in Welches.

By Ben Simpson/MT

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