Evergreen community rallies to help Chow Down owner, 'everybody's friend'

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By Stephen Knapp

It’s a peculiar aspect of human nature that the folks who do the most to help their community are often the least disposed to ask that community for help.

“I think if Jay knew what everybody’s trying to do for us, he’d freak out,” says Kelly Burns, wife of Chow Down owner and tireless community advocate Jay Henry. “Helping the community is what Jay is all about, but he’s not used to needing help.”

On Sept. 24, while driving back alone from the Chow Down store he’d recently opened in Fairplay, Henry’s truck spun off U.S. 285 and rolled.

“Jay had severe injuries to his back, and he’s been through many surgeries to repair the damage,” said Jackie Bell, president of the Evergreen Animal Protective League and one of Henry’s most ardent supporters. “His recovery is going to take months and months and months, and their insurance doesn’t cover everything. I believe that if people just know the story, they’ll want to help.”

Henry’s story is, quite literally, the tale of one man’s tireless campaign to help every member of the mountain community, starting with the often-neglected furred-and-feathered set.

“When we started dating, he lived in a 1,000-square-foot cabin full of birds and squirrels he’d rescued,” smiles Kelly. “He had woodpeckers, owls, even crows, and the squirrels needed to be fed every hour, 24 hours a day. It was quite a scene.”

After purchasing Chow Down more than 15 years ago, Henry quickly established himself as every animal’s — and animal lover’s — best friend. During the long, desperate days of the Hayman Fire, Henry and his truck were in and out of harm’s way constantly, shuttling critters wild and domestic to safety.

“Jay carried a 200-pound sedated bear out on his back,” Kelly recalls. “He had terrible sinuses for a long time after that from the smoke.”

Closer to home, Henry has given unstintingly of his energy and enterprise to help EAPL continue its mission of rescuing the area’s homeless pets. Besides supplying overtaxed foster families and cash-strapped area pet owners with mountains of free kibble, he hosts frequent pet-adoption events and provides EAPL with a spacious “cat room” and ample storage space in Chow Down free of charge.

“But this isn’t just the protective league who wants to help Jay and his family,” Bell says. “It’s his friends all over the community, and Jay is everybody’s friend.”

Everybody’s friend? Well, sure, if you count the hundreds he assists through Evergreen Christian Outreach, which frequently taps Henry for labor and cartage, or his generous contributions to Habitat for Humanity. And then there’s his routine support of virtually every area group, drive and cause that needs a hand.

“He’s had something in every local silent auction for the last 10 years,” Bell says. “If you look in the shed at Chow Down, there’s always a bunch of gift baskets, or something else in there with somebody’s name on it. He gives to everybody.”

And now, Bell is asking everybody to give something back. So far, Kelly’s been able to attend the day-to-day life of the family and business by taking time off from her work with a major pet food manufacturer, a job requiring frequent travel. Very soon, though, she’ll need to get back on the road, and that will mean tough challenges for Henry and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Quinn. For starters, the household’s two foster dogs are going to need alternative digs.

“It would be great if somebody could foster them,” Kelly says. “It would be even better if they would adopt them. They’re really good dogs, but they’re older, and it can be hard to find good homes for older dogs.”

For their part, Bell and local businesswoman Karen MacFarquhar are spearing efforts to provide meals for the family and help them keep up with the doctor bills.

“Trying to feed himself and Quinn will be a real challenge for Jay, and their out-of-pocket expenses are enormous,” Bell explains. “This community is so giving; I know people are going to want to help. They just need to know that they can.”

How to help

Anyone wishing to offer assistance can contact Jackie Bell at 303-674-4550 or jbeapl@aol.com, or Karen MacFarquhar at 303-670-3749 or gkmacf@aol.com. Checks made out to Jay Henry or Kelly Burns can left at Chow Down or mailed to: Chow Down, P.O. Box 1978, Evergreen, CO 80437.