A couple of weeks ago I took a walk next door to High-Hand. We have a project underway, the expansion of a lifetime you could say. The Woodmill. To say that it is going to keep us busy for a few years during construction is an understatement.
I was reflecting on the future and the work ahead. Thinking about how busy the next few years are going to be. Those thoughts were brushed away by the reflections of the last six months and the stories and people I have gotten to know as a result of the Camp Fire. So I stood there going back through my mind of all the pages and images from the last six months. The work to find better solutions for people, while very difficult and emotionally taxing at times, has been made much easier because of you, your support and your donations. While we are still working on solutions I wanted to update you.
I focused my efforts and resources in the beginning at the Red Cross Shelters. As they closed down I shifted our efforts to Magalia and Paradise directly. You could say it was the front lines, so many people forgotten. Our resources were focused on Magalia Pines Baptist Church and Pastor Doug. A Camp Fire victim himself, he and others survived the fire while barricaded in the church. I have come to know him as a warrior. He served his military career in the jungles of Laos. If there was anybody who has earned the title “Last Man Standing” it is Doug. With the resources you’ve provided we’ve set up food tents and distribution to serve people’s needs. Corporate partners such as Teichert, Celebration’s Party Rentals, Holt Caterpillar Equipment, Vaneli’s Coffee, Reed’s Meats, Produce Express, and OK Tires all helped without question. Countless individuals and organizations throughout the country all donated resources and money.
Over the course of the fire and the months after you helped countless individuals and families find a better solution.
Here is what you created over the last six months.
At the recovery center in Magalia you have helped Pastor Doug provide assistance to over 50,000 families and individuals. Your donations helped distribute over 30,000 blankets and sleeping bags, and over 6,500 sets of household items such as pots and pans. 13,000 sets of gloves. Over 100,000 sets of hygiene gloves, over 75,000 pairs of shoes and boots, and over 10,000 tarps. Donations also went towards the distribution over 3,000 survival kits, over 10,000 cleaning buckets, as well as 300,000 items of clothing. You helped distribute over 50,000 diapers, 30,000 toys, and provided hundreds of gallons of propane for warmth. Your donations helped distribute nearly 500,000 bottles of water or more and provided showers for 120 people per week. 11 RVs or trailers were able to be purchased with families currently living in them. Hold your Horses, an organization down in the Bay Area, helped deliver dog, cat, and chicken food as well as hay for horses. In the early days of the fire, your donations helped deliver 8 semi truckloads of hay to Cowboy 911 for distribution up into the fire zone while the fire was still going. During the fire, your donations provided over 40 tons of food that were delivered directly to those animals in need.
In the first four months, your donations helped provide over 80,000 meals to people in a warm tent that provided protection from the rain and snow. On a cold Christmas Eve, you fed 700 people a home-cooked dinner. Your donations provided equipment to cut wood, cars so people could go to work, gas, vehicle registrations, insurance, tires, and we repaired over 125 vehicles damaged as a result of the fire. We purchased airline tickets, vehicles and provided funds for people to move to new destinations. You have provided funds to build 10 tiny houses. As we find locations for these houses the families are being moved in.
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of your accomplishments. From baby car seats to scooters for mobility, new dentures and hearing-aids, your kindness and donations have made a lasting imprint on the people’s lives.
I never had an exit strategy for the work we were doing. I didn’t know what shape it would take, nor did I know where it would lead us. My plan from the beginning was to not worry about an exit strategy but to jump straight in and go to work. I figured that instead of creating a timeline and working towards that timeline, I would just let it naturally evolve and it has. In Magalia we are starting the transition. Two weeks ago we stopped preparing meals and are getting ready for more personal involvement going forward. We will be getting the church property ready for children’s programs, concerts, and other special programs in the evenings. The kitchen inside the church is going to be completed which will allow us to get past the hassle from the Health Department and Code Enforcement. All the tents in the parking lot are gone and most of the RVs on the church property and the streets surrounding the church have moved on. All the people that have been living at the church have moved onto other properties and other sites. A couple will remain for on-site security as we continue our work up there.
We are going to transition the site at the church to a resource center. Other agencies are starting to reach out to Pastor Doug. We will use the church site as a new resource center to connect people with trauma care services and resources to fill special needs. Doug and I are going to continue to look for individuals whose needs cannot be met by agencies. I will continue to triage these needs as resources are available.
We opened High-Hand Magalia a few months back. It was to prove to people that a business could open up. It doesn’t make money nor do I think it will. That is not the point. The reason for opening it was to create a place for community and to create access to the abundance of nature. Suzy and Carey, fire victims themselves, are employed at the nursery. The job that Carey has at the nursery has helped him get a foothold and a new beginning. In May, Tom Burchell’s Nursery and High-Hand Nursery participated in giving away 3,500 fruit trees. My hopes are to do it again next year. It’s time to get growing.
It’s been a difficult month trying to find solutions for people. As you can imagine everyone’s emotions are on edge. With this month behind us, things are starting to settle down and getting positive again. People are starting to look forward to the future and that takes a lot of stress out of my mind. A lot of people have left town permanently and that’s probably a good thing. Some people tried to adjust for months and they found that they just couldn’t do it.
Just recently an 86 year old woman was kicked out of her hotel room by FEMA. She had no choice, it took forever for FEMA to come and remove what was left of her house. I’m happy to say that with the trailer that you have provided, she is finally home and on her own property. While it is not the most ideal situation for an 86 year old lady she comes from that generation of people who survived wars and the great depression. She has people around her that can check in on her. She is grateful to be home and she is thankful to be home.
New Beginnings in Texas
Just a couple weeks ago after six long months Tammy, her mother, and her child made it to their new home in Texas. It’s taken six months, searching three states to find her home. While frustrating at times it is rewarding to know that we saw it to the end. New beginnings and a future lie ahead. Thank you for your generosity.
Winter Will Come Back and We Will Be Prepared
It’s hard to think about winter in the middle of summer. Being in the nursery business I guess it’s a habit to look seasons ahead. The log-splitter that you purchased is being put to good use. All summer we have been amassing piles of firewood to be distributed to those in need this winter. My instinct is that there will be difficulty again this winter. I will wait by and be ready to see the needs through should they arise.
I have probably driven 500 times through the Camp Fire area. I have seen the geese return to a pond, a mother bird feeding her baby, and the rains prompting the rise of the forest.
As I stared off into the distance from the Woodmill I was reminded of nature’s artistry. A Morning Glory vine has grown to form a beautiful tapestry. Let this be a reminder to all of us of the artistry and the beauty of nature.
Nature has a way of healing itself if we just take a step back and let it naturally happen. Your kindness, unconditional support, and the trust that you’ve placed in us have shown everybody affected by the Camp Fire that the unconditional love of humanity is alive and well.
I have said it many times. Thank you. Thank you for taking me on this journey. Thank you for allowing us to push the boundaries and provide solutions while restoring hope for those devastated by the fire. The final chapter has not been written yet, time will tell how that chapter writes itself.
With a warm heart, I thank 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:
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.