Six Month Update on Recovery for the Butte Wildfire

As you know, our friends and neighbors in Amador and Calaveras counties endured a relentless series of devastating wildfires this past summer. Today, our work continues, where Red Cross staff and volunteers continue to collaborate to ensure residents have the extra assistance they need to rebuild, not just as individuals but as a whole community, too.

Click HERE to read a six-month Stewardship Report that provides a first-hand look at your generously donated dollars at work, detailing our continued support and recovery efforts in the community.

Thank you for your support and commitment to help those affected by these wildfires. Your generosity makes the hope of recovery possible at a time when people need it the most.

Sincerely,
Gary Strong, CEO American Red Cross Gold Country Region

Below is a video that resumes our work over the last six months.

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Donor Spotlight – McDonald’s Mother Lode Bringing out the pies to help families of the Butte Fire.

 

It has been a little over five months since the Butte Fire ravaged through the hills and neighborhoods of Calaveras and Amador counties. While those communities continue their recovery process, community members and businesses like McDonalds in the Mother Lode are still gathering the donations they received from their customers.

When the fire erupted that September 9 last year, Dennis Graspointner, McDonald’s owner/operator of the store in the Mother Lode called his local Red Cross to offer support.

He gathered his team of employees and his supervisor Ron Richards to come up with a unique fundraiser to assist those affected by the wildfire.

ButteFire_McDonalds
Mc Donald’s Mother Lode Team – Owner/operator Dennis Graspointer is in the middle and supervisor Ron Richards is to the far right. 

They thought…  “What is America’s favorite thing?” The All American Apple Pie, of course! Therefore, they kicked off a campaign where all proceeds from the purchase of pies would benefit the fire victims of the California Wildfires.

As soon as the campaign began, it was a hit in the community.

“Customers came by just for the pies, to help their friends and neighbors who had been evacuated,” says Dennis Graspointer.

Five months later, Liza Cruz, one of our major gift officers went by the store to say hello and to find out how the drive was going. “When I arrived the employees were so happy to have Red Cross there,” smiles Liza. “I was honored to be with such compassionate people.”

The pie sales raised more than $6000 dollars!

“McDonald’s is proud to be able to help, we benefited from the generosity of the customers, and they bought large quantities of pies, so thank you!” exclaimed Dennis.

The American Red Cross was able to help residents in Amador and Calaveras affected by the Butte Fire. Thanks to your generous support, we were able to:

  • Open 5 shelters providing over 1,750 overnight stays;
  • Serve more than 33, 000 meals and snacks;
  • Hand out 23,500 relief items, like comfort kits and clean up kits containing shovels, gloves and more;
  • And open 430 cases to provide one-on-one support to residents.

But, that’s not all; we continue to be in Calaveras and Amador counties to offer assistance to those affected by the fire with the recovery team “Calaveras Recovers.”

 

American Red Cross Provides Valuable Information at Calaveras Recovers Open House

On January 22, local American Red Cross volunteers joined about 20 other organizations and more than 100 Butte Fire survivors at the “Rebuilding Calaveras: A New Beginning” open house, sponsored by Calaveras Recovers, held in Mountain Ranch, CA.

Attendees were offered free expert advice on home building such as, tips on how to hire a qualified contractor, how to build fire and flood resistant homes, reforestation, and much more. Red Cross volunteers were on hand to distribute information on home fire preparedness, how to develop a fire escape plan, backpacks with fire safety information, and Disney coloring books for children.

Debbie Calcote, Disaster Program Manager, Butte Fire Recovery, was impressed and pleased with the enthusiastic attendance at the open house, in spite of the rain. She said, “It poured the whole evening, but that didn’t deter those who wanted information.”

Code Red, an emergency notification service, provided attendees information on how to sign up for the valuable service that allows emergency officials to notify residents and businesses by telephone, cell phone, text message, email, and social media regarding time-sensitive general and emergency notifications.

The Butte Fire was fully contained in early October 2015. The fire destroyed nearly 500 homes, more than 300 outbuildings, and burned nearly 72,000 acres. And unfortunately, two people were killed. Recovery from this level of destruction will continue for many years. The American Red Cross will continue to support recovery efforts through community work and as active members of the Calaveras Recovers Team.

Debbie Calcotte Recognized – Butte Fire Response and Recovery

excellenceMany Red Cross staff and volunteers have contributed so much to the #ButteFire response this summer; however, one staffer is being honored by local government in a very public way.

Debbie Calcote as well as several #RedCross volunteers and FEMA Vals were acknowledge last week during a FEMA briefing, which was also published on the Calaveras Enterprise.

“I can not say enough about how much heart, passion, and dedication Debbie has to the Red Cross mission,” said Tracy McBrook, American Red Cross Disaster State Relations Director.

We are so very proud of you Debbie and the work you and your volunteer teams have done to serve those affected by the Butte Fire.

Presence is a mission and this is certainly evidence of that!DebbieCalcote.jpg

 

Licensed Mental Health Workers are Onsite to Provide Comfort

Written by Jan Mendoza, Volunteer Contributor

Disasters are typically unexpected, sudden and overwhelming and for many people they can take an emotional toll. It’s common for people to suffer from high stress, anxiety, depression and other trauma related illnesses.

Many do not know that immediately after a disaster strikes a community the American Red Cross deploys highly skilled professionals to shelters and assistance centers to provide individual psychological triage, community mental health surveillance, psychological first aid, psychoeducation, community resilience training, advocacy, crisis intervention and condolence support.

georgia tiessen- mental healthGeorgia Tiessen, a Red Cross volunteer with a Masters in Social Work has been diligently helping victims of the Butte fire get the vital help and resources they need to cope in the days and months ahead.

“These people hold it together as long as they can to get their immediate needs met, but then it hits them,” said Tiessen. “We want to make sure that they are not left dealing with these feelings on their own and get the help and support they need for the long term.”

Delores lost her home and barely got out with her life escaping from the Butte Fire on September 9. She was waiting outside of the Red Cross Assistance Center in San Andreas visibly upset as her husband was signing up for Red Cross Services.

“I have anxiety issues and I just couldn’t go in with him; I needed to separate myself”, she said. “We lost everything and have to start over.” Mental Health Volunteer Georgia Tiessen not only made sure Delores got her hot lunch as she waited, Georgia counseled her, gave big hugs and the resources Delores will need to help her overcome.

Compassionate mental health care is just one face of recovery when disaster strikes and for Delores that face was Georgia.

There are many ways people can volunteer with the Red Cross, including serving as a disaster mental health worker like Georgia Tiessen. Join the team today!

Youth Gardens Help Feed Families in Aftermath of Butte Fire

Red Cross joins the effort to get school garden veggies to families in need

Students from Toyon Middle School in Valley Springs donated their harvest to fire victims.
Students from Toyon Middle School in Valley Springs donated their harvest to fire victims.

So many people and organizations have stepped up these last two in weeks as the Butte Fire burned more than 70,000 acres in Calaveras and Amador Counties, destroying over 500 homes and evacuating thousands from their homes for days on end.
“We wanted to help too,” said Zach Guillemin a Railroad Flat Resident and 8th grader at Toyon Middle school in the garden and landscaping class.

“I know a lot of families up where we live that lost their gardens in the fire, and we thought maybe we could give them some of the vegetables we are growing in our school garden since they aren’t able to grow them anymore,” Guillemin said.

With the wheels set in motion, many organizations stepped up to support the effort.  The American Red Cross, The Resource Connection Food Bank, The UCCE Central Sierra, Calaveras Unified School District, Gardens to Grow In, Community Emergency Response Teams, FoodCorps, Calaveras FFA and many community partners all jumped on board to help make this happen.

IMG958643For the last two weeks all of the vegetables that are being harvested from the Calaveras High School Farm, Toyon Middle School and many of the elementary school gardens have been given directly to those affected by the fire.

“It is has been great to see so many of the students so excited to help, and feel like that are able to do something valuable for this community,” said Lucas Hill, a FoodCorps service member who serves at the Calaveras High School Farm and Gold Strike High School.  “Being new to this community, I have been so impressed by the youth and organizations that have mobilized to make this a reality.”

In addition to harvesting the vegetables and getting them distributed to families in need, Hill also helped lead a cooking session in the Valley Springs Elementary School Garden for Oakendell students who had been evacuated to the gym, and held a garden activity day for children and families evacuated to the campgrounds with FoodCorps service member Emily Metzger.

Food harvested from the gardens has been given to the Resource Connection Food Bank and American Red Cross for distribution and given directly to families at the school sites.

“These are the kinds of things that make us all feel so good inside,” said Marti Crane, long time Red Cross Volunteer and Calaveras County resident.  “When I heard that the schools were needing a way to get these veggies to the families, we saw a great opportunity for collaboration.  The youth in our community are amazing and we are so happy we have been able to help them fulfill their vision of feeding these families with these wonderful vegetables they have put so much time and love into growing.”

In all, over 300 pounds of vegetables grown at the Calaveras High School Farm and school gardens has been given away the last two weeks

“We plan to continue giving away the vegetables we are growing as long as there is a need,” said Guillemin. “It feels good to be able to provide something as foundational as healthy food for those that need it,” he added.

Butte Fire – Stories from the Front Lines

Author: Rich Woodruff, Deployed from Salt Lake City, Utah

Rich visits one of the home sites ravaged by the Butte Fire
                              Rich Woodruff surveys one of the home sites ravaged by the Butte Fire

The Red Cross Story at the Butte fire is not a single story, but many stories as communities, government, interfaith communities and businesses come together during times of crisis.  The media has played a critical role in disseminating information to the public and raising funds for the Red Cross through telethons and other campaigns.

MobileFeedings2The Red Cross has been distributing cleaning supplies and food at many areas affected by the Butte Fire. Just yesterday, when our emergency response vehicle was arriving to one of the areas that was blackened by the fire, people camping on their decimated property began wandering down from the hills in dire need of food, clothing, bedding, batteries, diapers, dog food … the list goes on and on.

Red Cross volunteers were there to greet them with a warm smile, hugs and more. Our mission there was twofold: to distribute relief and clean up supplies as well as serving lunch prepared by the Southern Baptist remote kitchen in nearby San Andreas.  The kitchen cooks thousands of meals a day and Red Cross ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicles) get them to the people where they are since most have lost their transportation.  Today’s lunch was chicken fingers, potato salad and homemade banana pudding.  The food was fresh and warm thanks to the special insulation containers used in the ERV’s.20150920_130752

One story that really touched me was the story of Mary from the Mountain Ranch area. Mary had not eaten in two days and was scouring the makeshift store for diapers, bedding, clean clothes and just basic needs like toiletries.   She also was asking about burn cream for her cat that had wandered on to the smoldering ashes of her property.  I quickly joined her rummaging through boxes finally coming upon some Aloe Vera.  At this time, her pet’s needs were more important to her than her own needs. She rushed to put some of the aloe vera on her cat… we waited and invited her to eat some food. While she was eating, Mary shared her story and appreciation for our immediate concern and help. A few minutes later, a line was forming behind the Red Cross supply truck full of rakes, garbage bags, gloves, buckets, dust masks and other clean-up supplies.

Another person affected by the Butte Fire, showed up with another specific need. Bob, was asking if we had any sifters and thanks to the generosity of Ace Hardware we actually did.

Ace Hardware donated 2×4’s and screens and Red Cross volunteers built more than 600 sifters so that they can be distributed during our routes to the affected area.  Bob had heard of people finding valuables and was hopeful to do the same.  In our efforts to take care of first things first, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a mailbox key or the emotional boost a retrieved precious family heirloom would provide.

Recovering from a disaster takes time and the Red Cross will be working alongside partners in the community to deliver aid for months to come.

We were here before this disaster, during and will remain after, because that’s what we do.