Report from Chris Raymond in Santa Rosa
“The outpouring is, as always, sort of astonishing. Even as nearly two dozen brutal, wind-whipped fires continue, as of this writing, to ravage NorCal’s stunning Wine Country, to the tune of tens of thousands of acres burned, unimaginable loss and indescribable devastation — all told, the most destructive inferno of its kind in California history — amidst it all, something sort of magical is occurring.” –Mark Morford, SFGate.com
I am one of thousands of evacuees from the several devastating fires in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties. Early Monday morning, my family – including husband, 93 year-old mom, cat – left our homes under mandatory evacuation. Only after knocking on many neighbors doors to make sure they knew….they did. I think we all had been up since 1 am watching the eastern horizon, where the town of Kenwood was located, filled with red light and smoke. Very close…very scary.
We went to a local church to get our bearings and maybe some news. It was then we learned that a huge fire had already blown through the northwest section of Santa Rosa. At the church were other evacuees, and we were happy to see friends safe and sound. We comforted each other and shared information – evacuation centers had already been established and were filling up fast. A friend contacted us about an available apartment in Oakland and we are there until we can return.
In the past several days, I have seen – and been the recipient of – so many acts of kindness, of strangers doing good for others without being asked. Whatever they had available, they gave…and gave.
When I return home, I am going to interview a few Good Samaritans to learn of their inner resources and drive to help, and share the stories on this website. These accounts will fill your hearts…and maybe indicate that “doing good” from such a super- or beyond-human reservoir of unselfish generosity must come from some source that is truly other-worldly.
To me, the scale of goodness is too big, too vast and interconnected, too unconditional, and too effective to be limited by human skills alone. I think it is our seamless relationship to the divine Spirit of all life that gives every one of us the strength, courage, wisdom, and love love love to make the difference for our neighbor-in-need – the difference between despair and hope, loss and fulfillment.
A few days ago Mark Morford, a news columnist in the Bay Area, summed up the atmosphere at the largest evacuation shelter at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The love and care and compassion is tangible! Following are excerpts, and you can read the entire column here.
“People rally. People offer support. By which I mean, armies of people, massive outpourings of support and kindness and help of every shape imaginable; communities, individuals, local governments, the National Guard, fundraising campaigns supporting suddenly out-of-work laborers, hotel staffs, needful families; local charities, urban businesses, endless donations of food and clothing, money and refuge, love and support both big and small, personal and financial, emotional and psychological and everything in between, from places you expect, but many you don’t.
“The Sonoma County Fairgrounds, an enormous swath of land that’s become a small, functioning city/evacuation center unto itself, is the site of a rather staggering scene, comprising medical care, meal areas to serve hundreds, huge tents full of well-kept cots, a rest area for exhausted firefighters, play areas for children, for nursing mothers, the elderly, support for farm animals both large and small, you name it.
“Can you guess the mood? Not bleak and miserable. Not fatalistic and isolated, not fearful and dejected.
“It’s positive. Helpful. Kind. Endlessly kind and generous, even with displaced families crammed together in cots, even with all the commiseration and sadness, even with so many thousands having no idea if their homes still stand or where they might go next. There is laughter, there is sharing, there is the unending flow of gratitude to be alive and safe, connected, even now and perhaps more than ever, to the community.
“…the devastation might be staggering and the loss heartbreaking, but the outpouring of love and community support… is unutterably marvelous and radiantly humane. And for this, we can only bow in gratitude.”
I know I am bowing in profoundly humble gratitude each day.
How You Can Help – North Bay Fire Relief
These are a few ideas for donating to support people and animals in need in Northern California.
Donate to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund
The Community Foundation of Sonoma County launched a Resilience Fund to help with the mid- to long-term needs of Sonoma recovery. Facebook, which announced on Tuesday a $1 million pledge to fire relief efforts, has donated $250,000 to the fund. You can donate or find out more here.
Donate to the City of Santa Rosa
The City of Santa Rosa also set up a YouCaring page to assist Tubbs Fire Victims. A slew of Bay Area sports teams, including the San Francisco 49ers and the Golden State Warriors, pledged $450,000 on a YouCaring page and have invited fans to contribute.
Help look after displaced pets and animals
Milo Foundation, a long-running animal rescue group with headquarters in Point Richmond, was forced to evacuate about 200 animals from its sanctuary in Willits. Shelter staff are asking people who live in safe locations to open their homes to shelter dogs and cats as a result.
Sonoma County Animal Services will accept donations of food and other supplies for animals at 1247 Century Ct. in Santa Rosa. They have set up a 24/7 phone line for information and donations at 707-565-4648. You can also donate here.
Donate at any Peet’s Coffee & Tea shop
Peet’s customers can make digital or cash donations for its North Bay Fire Relief Campaign through Oct. 22 at any of its coffee bars around the country. The Bay Area-based company will match funds of up to $10,000 to be distributed to: Community Foundation of Sonoma County, Napa Valley Community Foundation, The Community Foundation of Mendocino County, and other non-profits and food banks.
Donate to a food bank
The Redwood Empire Food Bank said it delivered the equivalent of 110,000 meals to Sonoma County evacuation centers, as of Tuesday evening. You can make a financial donation here.