First-time Disaster Volunteer Awarded Red Cross Challenge Coin for Exemplary Service

Diedre Cazneaux took it upon herself to run the kitchen at the Red Cross shelter in Siskiyou County.

By Judith Lester, Volunteer

Deidra Cazneaux’s deployment with the California Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross to the McKinney Fire was her first, but it wasn’t obvious.

The McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County displaced some 2,000 residents in late July. That’s when Cazneaux looked straight into the face of the disaster and went right to work.

“I just walked into the shelter kitchen and took over,” she said.

In her days at the shelter, Cazneaux always did her job with a smile, chatting with each evacuee and even advocating for them to ensure partner agencies who provided meals were offering nutritious options.

Shelter manager Bill Hart described Cazneaux, saying, “Deidra is an incredibly positive force in the face of controlled chaos.”

In recognition of her work at the shelter and her positive attitude while on the job, Cazneaux was presented with a Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services challenge coin.

“It’s always been in my heart to serve people,” Cazeneaux said, adding: “It’s an avenue for me to be who God wants me to be.”

Visit redcross.org/volunteer to explore the many opportunities to serve as a Red Cross volunteer.

McKinney Fire Evacuee Pledges to Volunteer for the Red Cross After Her Shelter Experience

Harlene Schwander lost her home in the McKinney Fire and regularly expressed her gratitude for the help she’s received since she evacuated.

By Judith Lester, Volunteer

Harlene Schwander hadn’t driven in years. But she drove herself to the American Red Cross Shelter at the Weed Community Center when her home was destroyed in Siskiyou County’s McKinney Fire.

Schwander was not shy about expressing her appreciation for people who gave her clothing, comfort and care while she was at our shelter.

She told her life story and the circumstances of her evacuation to several news reporters who visited the Weed shelter.

Schwander said she’s planning to volunteer for the American Red Cross after this experience.

“I am amazed at how much you help people mentally and physically— you just buoy people!”

“I am overwhelmed by your kindness,” Schwander said, adding that is why she is planning to join the Red Cross team.

The Red Cross always needs volunteers! Join us by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.

Shelter Snapshot: ‘Every Single One of You Is So Caring’

Melody Barnett and her son, Chris Tiese, are staying at the American Red Cross evacuation shelter at the Weed Community Center because they were evacuated from their home in Yreka.

Barnett said she did not know how she was going to get out of the massive McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County.

“Everyone in my building was evacuating, and then there was a loud banging on my door,” she said.

 Luckily for Barnett, the maintenance man in her community came to her rescue and took her to the Red Cross shelter.

“The American Red Cross is so great,” Barnett said, nearly in tears. “Every single one of you are so caring.”

Those caregivers are volunteers. There are thousands of them across the United States who give their time and talent to help those in need.

If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.

Red Cross Turns Compassion Into Action During McKinney Fire

By Judith Lester, Volunteer

The American Red Cross is busy 365 days a year, 24 hours a day turning compassion into action.

When Siskiyou County’s McKinney Fire broke out, the Red Cross was called upon to open an evacuation shelter in Yreka. Within just a few hours, the doors were open.

Once evacuation orders were issued in Yreka, the Red Cross relocated the shelter to the Weed Community Center.

Barbara Leper and her husband are guests at the Red Cross shelter in Weed.

Barbara Leper, 78, and her husband are at the shelter in Weed because they are once again under the threat of losing everything all over again. “Last year we had to run for our lives when our home in Happy Camp burned to the ground in just a few minutes,” Leper said.

The Lepers have lived in beautiful Siskiyou County for nearly 30 years. Regardless of the continuum of wildfires, they are planning to stay put in the Weed community. “We just love it here, it’s our home,” Leper said.

The Red Cross was there for the Lepers last year. Leper shared how the Red Cross helped them along with temporary housing and the essential items they needed.

“The Red Cross kept helping us along the way,” Leper said. “We received another $500 gift certificate in December for food and gas.”

Consider supporting Red Cross disaster relief efforts by visiting redcross.org/donate.

Stronger Together: Thanks for the great meals, Salvation Army

Strong relationships with community partners are pivotal in caring for those who need assistance during a disaster. Volunteers from the Salvation Army in Redding have been serving up great meals to dozens of McKinney Fire evacuees. Pictured are Joy Wegner (top left), Teri Lewis (top right), Dorinda Cox (bottom left), and Steven Brooks (bottom right).

Snapshot: Support is Strong Among McKinney Fire Evacuees

McKinney Fire evacuees Harlene (left) and Burt (right) hanging out in the women’s quarters at the Weed, CA shelter. Sharing stories and encouragement, both said they are grateful for the shelter. Harlene lost everything in the fire. Burt evacuated as a precaution.

All Are Welcome at a Red Cross Shelter… Even If It’s Just For Lunch

By Steve Walsh

Jesus Soberano, his wife, Chantel, and their two children pulled up at the Red Cross shelter in Weed, Calif., days after evacuating their Fort Jones home during the McKinney Fire.

The family was staying at a nearby hotel but Jesus said it’s getting expensive.

Chantel said she will likely need a heart transplant soon and that being outside, breathing the smoky air was less than ideal.

The Soberanos went inside the shelter to see what assistance the Red Cross could provide.

Minutes later, the family emerged with comfort kits full of toiletries and a tiny Red Cross teddy bear for Shasta, the youngest.

“This is great,” Jesus said, watching his daughter clutch her new furry friend. “Thank you.”

A Red Cross volunteer reminded the family that they don’t have to stay at the shelter to receive help. Should they need it, snacks, meals, drinks and even a little neighborly conversation are available anytime.

If you are looking for an evacuation shelter, visit redcross.org/shelters.

Electra Fire: Up Next… Distribution of Emergency Supplies

Red Cross volunteers are getting ready to distribute emergency supplies to Electra Fire evacuees in Amador and Calaveras counties.

In the coming days, county officials will choose locations for those impacted by the fire to stop by and pick up items such as garbage bags, tarps, gloves and cleaning supplies.

The Red Cross is able to provide this service thanks to the generosity of donors. If you would like to support our disaster relief efforts, visit redcross.org/donate.

Thank you, Cowabunga!

A big thank you to Cowabunga Ice Cream Truck out of Valley Springs for delivering some frozen sweet treats to our shelter in San Andreas this week.

During a wildfire, when our shelter guests have lost so much, something as simple as ice cream can sure boost their spirits!

Cowabunga’s owners posted on Facebook: “A great night visiting evacuees and volunteers in San Andreas. Next stop Amador! Passing out free ice cream for those who have been displaced and those that need a smile on their faces. Fun night.”

Thank you for caring, Cowabunga!

For information on how you can support the American Red Cross during times of disaster, visit redcross.org/donate.

From Receiving Help to Pondering Helping Others: Evacuees Reflect on Days at Electra Fire Shelter

Michelle Symington and Shelley Royce evacuated from their homes in Amador County to escape the Electra Fire burning in Amador and Calaveras counties.

They are staying with their beloved dogs and cat on at the Red Cross shelter located at the Italian Picnic Grounds in Sutter Creek. There, they are provided food, snacks, beverages, health services and a bevy of other support.

“This is the first time we’ve had to evacuate due to a disaster. It’s a tough time for us,” Michelle said. “I’m worried about my husband’s health condition, but he’s being cared for here.

“We’d much rather be home watching ‘Downton Abbey’ but, on the bright side, I’ve met so many people here who have been so kind and helpful. I like to help people so have decided to check into becoming a Red Cross volunteer”.

If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief efforts, visit redcross.org/donate and click on “Disaster Relief” in the dropdown menu.