During times of trouble, you can count on American Red Cross volunteers like Mike Woods to arrive on scene with a smile on their face (though it may be hard to see through the face mask)! Our Red Cross volunteer spent his days knocking on the doors of Butte County hotels to deliver meals to residents displaced by the recent fires. If you’re interested in joining our team please go to http://www.redcross.org/volunteertoday.
The Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross has some incredibly dedicated volunteers! Among them are Heath Wakelee and Mary Prather who don’t let cancer get in the way of helping people who need it most.
Volunteer damage assessor Dave Boyles explains just one of the ways the Red Cross helps people who lose their homes to disasters like wildfires.
William and Sondra Weidman evacuated the North Complex Fire where their home and 250 acres were destroyed. The Weidmans relocated to the Elk’s Lodge RV park since leaving their home in Kanaka Mountain. The American Red Cross has done a damage assessment on their home, and William visited our Local Assistance Center where we made sure he and Sondra had a place to stay and money to cover their immediate needs.
“The Red Cross is always there to alleviate suffering during the time of crisis.”
American Red Cross volunteer, Mary Prather, shares her experience in providing breakfast, lunch and dinner to the Red Cross clients that were impacted by the recent fires.
“We want all of them to know that we are here to support this neighborhood, support this community, support this state… we are going to make sure that we take care of every last person.”
While Joe Spaccarelli is the program director of the home fire program in the Greater New York Region, in his spare time he enjoys helping his fellow community by deploying to national disasters, including this year’s Northern California wildfires.
Joe highlights the importance of helping every single person during their time of need and discusses how challenging it has been helping people during a Covid environment. In addition, Joe really wants those impacted by the wildfires to know that they have some of the most passionate volunteers out there willing to help.
Thank you to New Yorker, Joe Spaccarelli, for lending a hand in the 2020 Northern California wildfires!
Longtime Trinity County resident and Marine Corps Veteran Jim Bruffett lost his home in the recent fire and saw footage of his 1952 Marine Corps Jeep burning. Bruffett is grateful that the Red Cross was able to acquire a hotel room that allowed him to stay with his dog. Through his heartache, he remains hopeful of the future and is excited to welcome a new granddaughter in the upcoming months.
Please watch Jim’s story.
By Peg Taylor, Red Cross Volunteer
When disaster strikes, the Red Cross and partners are quick to respond by providing evacuees with motel lodging, food and other support. However, once sheltered and safe, the common concern among evacuees is, “What do we do now? What’s next?”
There are often many questions about how to take the next steps needed to rebuild their homes and their lives.
Many of those questions can be answered at a Local Assistance Center (LAC).
LACs are opened to assist people with recovery from disasters and provide a wide variety of services in one place. County, state and federal agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, are available to assist residents with accessing information about homeowner’s insurance, steps to rebuilding their homes, community and social services, replacing vital records that may have been lost, and a number of other services.
The American Red Cross is an active participant at LACs and provides mental health services, health services, emotional and spiritual care, plus Individual Assistance funds for clients whose homes were destroyed or damaged.
For those who are allowed to return to their property to search for belongings, we also hand out wildfire kits that include heavy work gloves, tarps, rakes shovels, masks and other items needed to search through rubble.
Evacuees lined up early on September 22 at the LAC in Oroville which was opened to assist people affected by the North Complex West Zone. Many had recently evacuated from their homes in Berry Creek, a small, isolated community in the hills about 20 miles up the mountain from Oroville.
The look of disbelief was clear on the faces of the people lined up to receive help. The Red Cross had provided motel lodging and meals to many in line, but they were housed in cities across the region and had lost contact with others from their community.
They used the time in line to catch up with neighbors from Berry Creek and shared stories and information about what was still standing in their community. They grieved the loss of their little town as they learned of destroyed buildings and businesses.
Evacuees told stories of leaving their homes in the middle of the night with little warning. One man recalled having to lie in a creek while the fire storm burned over the top of him. Others told stories of rescuing people who were stranded with no transportation.
Rickie described his hilltop home as “tranquility at its finest” and apologized for crying. He and his uncle were only alive because they took shelter in a 5,000-gallon water tank on his property while the fire burned through. His home was destroyed, and Rickie was interested in gathering information from agencies at the LAC that will help him learn how to rebuild is home and his life.
Nyda, a long-time resident, spoke of leaving the home her father had built 50 years ago and described the beautiful woodwork and stained glass in the home. The home is gone now, but Nyda is relieved to still have a water supply and is hoping to rebuild. She was unsure if her insurance would cover the total cost of rebuilding and hoped to get some answers and guidance during her visit to the LAC.
As they left the LAC, evacuees indicated that many of their questions had been answered and they felt more at ease that they would be able to eventually get back on their feet. They picked up wildfire kits from the Red Cross truck and returned to their motel lodging, ready to take the next steps necessary to move forward with their lives.
It is due to the generosity of donors that the Red Cross can assist people during some of their darkest days. The Red Cross and communities across northern California thank our donors for their generous support.
If you would like to support Red Cross disaster response efforts, please visit redcross.org/donate to make a donation.
By Kristine Laio, Red Cross Volunteer
Early in the morning on September 9, Mary Dorman received a call from the emergency services manager in the city of Gasquet. The city had just been ordered to evacuate due to the Slater Fire. Eighteen miles away in Crescent City, Mary was ready to help.
Mary is no stranger to the American Red Cross. For 13 years, she has served through many iterations of her county’s Red Cross board chapters, the most recent being the transition to the California Gold Country Region.
Mary credits her upbringing overseas and her mother, who believed in service for others. She began volunteering in 2007 and became a board member for the then Del Norte County Chapter. “At the same time, I had also just opened my State Farm agency, so helping people when disaster strikes is in my bones,” Mary said.
About a half an hour after the initial call, the Temporary Evacuation Point at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds was up and running, ready to assist clients. Red Cross volunteers registered nearly 300 clients, who had to remain in their cars due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
The team placed 136 clients in hotels and served over 150 meals that first night.
Mary credits the quick mobilization to community partnerships with the Red Cross, Del Norte County Office of Health and Human Services and CERT.
“It was a team effort,” she said.
Elk Valley Rancheria and local restaurants donated meals and helped collect monetary donations, raising nearly $3,000. When a client who lost his home had car trouble, local car dealership Coast Auto Center provided services at no cost and got him back on the road.
“We’re small but mighty up here in our rural Red Cross communities,” Mary said. “At the end of the day, it’s about taking care of each other.”
“When people are going through disasters, when you find you have no home, all you have are the clothes on your back, it’s a grieving process. I have family and friends who lost everything in the Camp Fire. My husband was born and raised in Paradise,” Mary shared. “Suddenly, you do not have control, you don’t know where you’re going to spend the night, you don’t have a toothbrush! You don’t have anything!
“And here comes people with that magic red vest that say, ‘I care and you’re going to be okay – here’s a toothbrush.’ That, to me, is the best of the human spirit. That’s how we’re supposed to be with each other.”
“For me, no one does that like the Red Cross does,” Mary added. “The Fundamental Principles are very near and dear to my heart, just from my own personal experiences. Again, being born and raised overseas, I’ve seen people go through good times and I’ve seen them go through bad and the best of humanity. We take care of each other. I want to be part of the solution. That’s important to me.”
If you have the time, you can make a significant impact as a Red Cross volunteer. There are jobs for everyone, regardless of your background, skills or how much time you have to give. Review our most urgently needed volunteer positions at redcross.org/volunteertoday
Since September 8, the American Red Cross California Gold Country Region and more than 200 Red Cross volunteers have been assisting those impacted by the devastating wildfires in Northern California.
Regional CEO, Gary Strong, and Northern California Chapter Executive Director, Nuriddin Ziyadinov, talk about picking up the pieces, with the help of our partners, and helping those who desperately need it.
Join the mission at redcross.org/volunteer.