My Thoughts

I was going to do an email last week. After all that we have been through together in helping the Camp Fire folks, I wanted to do a positive, uplifting email with progress, new beginnings and the gratification that all this is making a difference.

I know it is making a difference because I get to see and deal with it daily. Whether I’m up there or in my office, every day progress is being made. But last week I was sidelined by a phone call and needed time to process it.

I’d received a call from one of the people we were helping inside the shelter. I was told that one of the ladies who we were helping had passed away.  This lady was perfectly healthy when I met her. We’d given her money for day to day expenses and had a solution for a place for her to go. She had gotten sick and had a cold. This I knew. But, in the short time that I had not seen her, she was admitted to a hospital and passed away. This fire continues to claim victims. As far as Red Cross is concerned, I have seen good and bad and, to be honest, without wading into the debate of good or bad, I just think that if you take it on you own it. If you break it, you’re responsible for fixing it.  I don’t know what else to say. 

The Red Cross shelter is closing at the end of the month. They are asking 120 trailers to leave after spending a ton of money making a new paved area for them. They’ll be closing down the indoor shelters as well. Couldn’t they wait until Spring before they shoved the people onto the streets?

There was a brief time in my life when I slept under the stars myself. I can tell you from experience this is not the time to do it. 

At the shelter, Steve is walking trailer by trailer and assessing individual needs. I will be there to help on an as needed basis to facilitate means to help people move along to better destinations. 

In the shelter I am still working with people to find solutions. 

– Chico Shelter Luke and Colton. We’re building a mini house for them. Since a trailer has not come through that would be suited for them, we have started construction on a 20′ mini house.

Luke and Colton need to stay in Chico because that’s where doctors and Colton’s special needs school are located. You and I have funded his mini house build. Would anybody like to adopt them once the house is completed? We will be putting forth a list of things needed – mattresses, linens, etc. Let me know.

– Chico Shelter Joe surgery. If you remember Joe from the early days, we’ve been helping him along with various needs. Here’s an update. His surgery has been postponed. The doctor quit the hospital. His primary physician is looking for a new surgeon. I talked to Joe today. As life goes, things come from different directions. Joe has found a new partner in the shelter and they are going to combine forces when they can and live together. Joe’s plan when the shelter closed was to use a used sleeping bag and rain boots and go out on the streets. This isn’t going to happen. Not on my watch. We are going to build him a mini house. His job is to find a place to put it. My job is to either find a trailer or put him in a mini house. Either way, we’re going to start the build.

Would anybody like to adopt Joe, his partner and a mini house? Let me know.

– Magalia Propane People, James and Christine. I met them in Magalia. They were able to move back home.Their money has gone towards getting their house in order. I was talking to somebody in the food tent and noticed them standing in the corner. It’s not hard to spot people’s needs. It was very easy to tell that they were looking for help.  Looking for someone to ask. I talked to them and asked them what their worry was. They told me they were back home and cleaning up to the best of their ability. Their 250 gallon propane tank empty and no heat. So simple. We put the propane on the church’s account and paid the bill. It will be enough to get through winter and cook with. Gift cards for groceries and some gas cards as well. It will be a long winter for Christine and James. They are trying to save up money to get her brother back home. His ashes are in Chico. He didn’t make it off the hill the night of the fire. 

– Chico Tattoo Gloria and Ralph. Finally on their way to Arizona. It’s been a long couple months, but they headed home.

As I’ve learned throughout this process everything is a moving target and some things fight until the very end. The plan was to fly them from Sacramento to Vegas and have Mom pick them up. Mom got sick. She’s in her upper eighties, but still drives. My kind of woman. Not being able to change the flight, we had to put them over in a hotel in Vegas for the night. The next day Mom was going to get them. That didn’t work out. Mom was too sick to drive. So, $178 later, an Uber from Vegas to Lake Havasu and they’re home.  Thank you for participating with me. Gloria and Ralph have said “thank you” many times. From the shelter to home where they will take care of their mother, a new life begins.

– Chico Jason Stacy Wife in LA. We got her car fixed so she could drive back north so she could be with the family. Jason stayed behind and slept on a friend’s couch. Stacy and the kids went on to her parents house in LA. Jason was able to stay behind and find a place. We assisted in basic living expenses until they were able to move in. A Good Year Service Center fixed her car for the trip back home. We have paid part of those repairs. Jason has a job now and can take it from here. 

– Chico Hold Your Horses. They are a group out of the Bay Area who continue to make food runs to the animals. I’ve given them access to some of our feed supplies. They are doing a very good job of keeping a handle on that and have worked relentlessly throughout. 

– Chico Idaho Family. They made it to Idaho.

The husband started work and the kids are in school. She is trying to get a small home based business up and running. They’ve reached out and said “thank you”. She said, “Sometimes us fire survivors forget to check in with the helpers. We’re all healthy and living. Thank you.”

– Chico Jared and Jenny Paradise Ford Auto. Your donations repaired Jared’s Ford. It was left behind and took quite a beating from the fire. He’s now back to work thanks to your donations. 

I’m working with several people in FEMA trailers. They don’t own these trailers. They can stay there for 18 months. Here’s the frustrating part. I feel like the deck was stacked against them from the very beginning. When you apply for the trailer, you get a FEMA number. That means your 18 months start from that application date. If it took FEMA 3 months to get you into a trailer, you now have 15 months left.  The other kicker is you have to re-certify every month to remain in the trailer. I’m working with several people in FEMA trailers and casting our eyes out into the future as a new housing situation could unfold again for those in FEMA trailers. Frustrating, isn’t it? You survived a fire, three months in the shelter, you have 15 months remaining in your FEMA trailer and have to re-certify with FEMA every month to remain. Can’t the pressure cease for a bit so their feet can be firmly planted on the ground?

-Water. Water is an issue. I’m a bit frustrated as to why private citizens have to fund water to people in the fire area. The Del Oro Water District in Magalia has said the water is safe. However, if not sure, boil it. Not exactly a vote of confidence in your water. Paradise water has various chemicals that do not cook out by boiling. The quantity of water needed in Paradise, Magalia and Konkow is staggering. In Paradise you can get a case of water per day with identification as long as their supplies last. And then what, I ask? The CEO of Del Oro water tried to motivate a Congressman to help. The Congressman said there is nothing he could do publicly. Seriously? That’s the best a Congressman can do for people who have to stand in a water line hoping to get their ration “while supplies last”?

What’s it take to move water into the area? We’ve moved several truckloads. But after reading these emails Ozark Trucking called. I wanted to thank Ozark Trucking, Produce Express and Teichert. Ozark delivered 19 pallets of water to be offloaded at Produce Express. Produce Express was kind enough to offload, store and reload onto a Teichert truck.

Teichert delivered this truck load of donated water to Pastor Doug. This is an example of people coming together in a very non-selfish way and just getting it done. I thank all three of you for facilitating this. Congressman, surely you’re good for a couple truck loads of water? 

As for me, it’s shelter, tiny houses, feeding in Magalia, and continuing to assist families we are currently helping. We, you and I, took them on and we will see them to completion.

It’s not very often that I giggle when I’m working on fire relief projects. This was a work sheet I did for calculating the best price on the water – gallon jugs versus bottles. I only giggled because this is what my mind looks like inside. Believe it or not, there is a flow to all of this. It just goes in a lot of directions at once. 

A Camp Fire and Wildlife Care Association benefit. Join us for an inspiring evening of insight into some of the greatest birds that fly. We will have pictures posted that evening of our work with the Camp Fire. These pictures have not been published and you’ll be able to see some of the faces of people you’ve helped. Join us for an enchanting evening. All proceeds will go towards these two causes.

Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

From the very beginning at the WalMart parking lot standing in the cloud of smoke, it was hard to see a path. Leapfrogging from issue to issue was the only path at the time. I fretted about winter because I knew it would only make matters worse and in some cases it has. The shelter is closing at the end of the month. The timing couldn’t be worse. However, we, you and I, will continue to push person by person by person.

Through success and disappointment. Through tragedy and new beginnings, all of you supporting this work should feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. The heavy lifting doesn’t happen without you. We have gone from giving out $50 bills to feeding a town and building houses.

Like High-Hand, I know that the flowers will come out again. People in the middle of this crisis may not see that, but your donations are continuing to pull this into focus.

Thank you so much. 


How can you help out those impacted by the Camp Fire?

You have helped out so much! Here is what’s needed – Visa Gift Cards and cash. Gift cards and cash can be delivered directly to the nursery or sent to us by mail. Our address is:

Attn: Nichole
High-Hand Nursery
P.O. Box 2280
Loomis, CA 95650

You can also call us and give us a credit card over the phone. Our number is 916-652-2065. We will turn all checks and credit card transactions into cash.

Look What You Created

I have made so many trips to Chico and Magalia, that I can’t even begin to tell you how many. I want to tell you what you created. In the beginning, it was the Walmart parking lot, it’s smoke and the despair. It was about all the animals and their suffering. It was about $50 into somebody’s hand when they had nothing. It was about words that some times fell flat, such as “It’ll get better.” It was about frustration with the shelters opening and closing. It was about anger that something like this could even happen in the first place. And it was also about being pissed off that I couldn’t reach out to more people.

It didn’t take long for me to realize in just a few days that this was not going to be a quick fix. I could not just roll into town with your donations and solve everybody’s problems. So, I started thinking as I always do within my business and that was to try to be a critical thinker. I knew that I could not do this work with the people of the Camp Fire without your help. I knew that every penny and every dollar had to be stretched. I also felt that to give out money that did not create a solution to an immediate need, a small step forward and hope was useless. So, with that, I readjusted after just a few days.

With your help, I was in and out of parking lots, people’s RV’s and shelters almost daily. Finding people to help wasn’t the hard part. Coming up with ways to help people move forward was the challenging part. So many layers of the onion had to be peeled at times it was physically and mentally exhausting.

What exhausted me at times the most was laying in bed at night and not being able to sleep. My mind is like a book and every page had a person on it with a different need and so at night I would read the book page after page to try to set up the next day.

I’ve been self employed for many years and without the lessons of entrepreneurship, I don’t think I would have adapted or evolved to be able to keep up with an ever changing situation. I also don’t think I would have been able to keep going without all the support from family and everybody here at High-Hand, both of whom were thrust into the situation unknowingly as I did not announce what I was up to when I had put it out there.

I have received many notes of thank you and support. I read them and I hold onto them. Your support, my family’s support as well as the wonderful people who work at High Hand has been there through all this to carry the day.

The drive up to Magalia starts out very peaceful as you pull off Highway 70. It doesn’t take long, once you make the turn onto Penze Road that the scenery changes.

Within a short distance of just a few miles, everything changes. I wonder if things will ever get better.

I have seen from the early days great things happen to people. I wish I could share them all with you and give you a window into those moments. I’ve tried to do this in these emails, but it really doesn’t do it justice. People have lost literally everything and your donations have managed to help people start lives over again. To bear witness to that and be able to provide those moments of hope has been a blessing that only came when you decided to help.

The Red Cross shelter at Silver Dollar still has people that you and I are helping. I have a solution for a few and am creating solutions for others. I’m doing the best I can there. You can put out your finger many times and point to the way, but if the butterfly doesn’t want to land there, it’s heartbreaking.

Today, we are continuing to feed people at Pastor Doug’s church. Water is a big issue up there and it pisses me off that the agencies are hit and miss.

We have shipped 24 pallets of water to date on top of all the food and other items into Magalia. A truck load of water costs around $3,000.00.

It’s nuts that I have to pay as much for the CRV as the water, but it is the best deal I can come up with so far. If anybody’s got any ideas, I’m all ears. A pallet costs about $250.00. We can fit 12 on a truck. When Doug calls me and I need to infill, I send a truck of water up. There is no word on when their water systems will be good again.

Chico Walmart with kids has been living in a Rocklin hotel for about 5 weeks. From the shelter to the hotel she will start a new life. Tomorrow she and the children will be moving to Gathering Inn. I can’t thank them enough for making a six month commitment to her. She will continue to have access to services, counseling and assistance for her to move forward and put this behind her. I will be checking in.

Chico Alejandro Oroville parking lot now has a job and a trailer to stay in. We helped fix a donated car thanks to you. We will be checking in as well.

Chico Car Key Couple has a new special key for the car that was stolen at the shelter. Also insurance and registration that lapsed during the fire has been paid. They’ve been given a direction.

Chico Carolina escaped the fire. Her son has the scars on his back to prove it from the ashes that fell. She’s gone from the Gridley shelter to Red Cross Kim’s trailer park and now is moving into an apartment in Auburn. We were able to get her a donated car and get her into the apartment. She and her three kids are starting over. She will start a job at High Hand in the next few weeks.

Chico Kurt Feed Store is continuing to distribute animal food to people we have talked to.

Chico Daniel Wood Cutting has been cutting wood and donating it to people to get through the winter. It’s cold up there. Your donations continue to backfill his gas needs as they arise.

Chico Diana needs a car. I’m trying to mentor her to clear up a ticket. She can then at that point get a car and her license back. She’s currently still at the shelter, safe and warm.

Chico Greg with Kids has a home to go to in Magalia but still remains at the shelter. I am continually in touch with him, trying to mentor him to move along.

Chico Jasmine Panda parking lot is now back in a home in Magalia. All is good.

Chico Magalia Jesse Car Registration has his chainsaw and we have a job for him in Magalia if he wants it. I will be in contact with him tomorrow to keep him on course.

Chico Tattoo Gloria and Ralph are meeting me at Southwest Airlines Sacramento tomorrow at 12. I will give them the last few dollars they need to spend a night at a hotel on the other end while they wait for their mother to come pick them up from Arizona.

Chico Idaho Family. From the fire to Salinas to the Home Depot parking lot on Truxel Road, your donations have helped them with gas money and a hotel as they made their two day journey to Idaho to start a new job and a new life.

Chico Shelter Janice with Small Dog has had her car payment and insurance paid for two months. They lapsed during the fire. We agreed that she would remain in the shelter where she is safe and warm. I will meet her on the 6th to give her $100 in gas money. She’s leaving to go live with her sister who has prepared a room for her.

Magalia Smiles got a donated car last week. You’ll remember him in previous emails. I handed him gift cards while standing in the ashes. He’s staying at a room in Chico. I’ll keep you updated.

I’m working with a trailer park near Pastor Doug’s church. The folks who currently own it bought it two months before the fire and also lost their homes. I’ve made a commitment to them to revamp the trailer park by helping them find renters who can pay the rent. The trailer park was on the State’s radar as far as being full of meth labs. The fire solved that problem. I’m going to help the owners fill it with great people and make it a shining success of Magalia. We have our first trailer going in.

There are four slots here for trailers. A fifteen day notice of abandonment has been posted per State law. Once these slots are cleared, we have people in trailers with jobs to move in.

I don’t know where this journey goes, but I will keep going as long as there is need and as long as you, my partners, continue to support this journey. I am still coming across people in desperate need and we are still finding solutions. Understand that without this partnership between you and I none of this happens. None of it. I can go through every alphabet in my contact list and tell you the people and the stories and the outcomes that your kind giving has allowed to happen.

Our annual Wings & Wine event will take new flight this year. All proceeds will go to support our effort in Magalia and beyond. We will also be supporting Wildlife Care Association. I hope you can attend and I hope you will support these worthy causes. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

You and I have started on a journey together that has been sad, humbling and full of triumph. It’s been life changing being so close to it. I wish I could share it all with you.

There’s a new year ahead. A new year of hope. I can’t tell you enough what this partnership between you and I has meant. As hard as it has been, it is also been extremely gratifying to watch people take their lives on with a newfound courage they did not think they had.

Don’t ever question the human spirit. The support all of you have given to this journey has kept the human spirit alive and well.

I am so proud of all of you.


How can you help out those impacted by the Camp Fire?

You have helped out so much! Here is what’s needed – Visa Gift Cards and cash. Gift cards and cash can be delivered directly to the nursery or sent to us by mail. Our address is:

Attn: Nichole
High-Hand Nursery
P.O. Box 2280
Loomis, CA 95650

You can also call us and give us a credit card over the phone. Our number is 916-652-2065. We will turn all checks and credit card transactions into cash.

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