Since the beginning of the Walmart parking lot, I’ve been going to shelter to shelter to shelter. Some times I feel like a gerbil turning on a wheel. It’s gotten to the point that I recognize the faces when I come across them at the shelter at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. Silver Dollar is the last shelter for the most part. Red Cross has consolidated all their shelters down to one. I guess that’s good news.

I’m continuing to work with several people within the shelter to see if I can be part of the solution for them. Fixing cars, renewing registrations, car insurance, helping with driver’s licenses, picking up the mail. All the things you and I take for granted. These are things that when you are in a shelter are monumental tasks.

A couple of weeks ago I helped Alejandro and his baby boy in the Oroville parking lot. After talking with Alejandro we decided that it was best for his child to go live with his mom for a while. We’ve determined that his truck is not salvageable after being driven through the fire during their escape. Liquids in the truck boiled. He has managed to get a job as a security guard at Feather River Casino working night shift. We talked about him moving to the shelter for now. At least it’s warm. Your donations helped him buy a $500 car today and two new front tires, an alignment and an oil change. I have to think there’s hope for him. He’s certainly working hard to get back on his feet.

One of the struggles of being in the shelter for Alejandro is that he works the night shift at the casino. The security guards hassle him when he leaves for work. There’s a curfew at the shelter. Seriously? A security guard hassling another security guard? The Red Cross shelter is not an easy place to be, contrary to popular belief.

I got a call today from a Red Cross volunteer who quit. He lasted five days. We talked extensively about the issues which I won’t repeat. This makes me sad. It makes me sad at the way people are being treated. And in the faces I’ve come to learn, despair seems to deepen, but I have to think there is hope.

At the Silver Dollar I will continue to work with everybody I come across who continues to help themselves. This will not stop until the shelter closes.

Since the beginning, we have shipped five semi-truck loads of hay and grain for the animals.

We are continuing to support the animals. Things have been fluid since the very beginning. Our feed for the animals is now being done through a feed store. The owners of animals that are in need can come to the feed store and pick up what they need. The bill is sent to me and is paid. We are very careful to make sure that there is a true need and that other resources have been exhausted. It’s a simple, focused way of distributing the food straight to people in need. This will continue most likely into the Spring. Our focus is to get the animals through winter. These needs are being met thanks to your donations.

In Magalia, Pastor Doug is now feeding hundreds of meals a day. Last week the refrigeration truck arrived. Pastor Doug can now call a produce and meat company and food will be directly shipped to a distribution point in Chico. From there Pastor Doug picks it up. This is working out very smoothly and efficiently with no extra waste of energy or resources.

This week an 40’x80′ heated tent will be erected to feed 300 at a time. Right now they eat out in a cold tent with no sides. I would like to thank Tony and Celebrations for making this happen. We will be preparing dinner for 600 on Christmas Eve thanks to your contributions for restoring hope.

We have purchased ten pallets of pellets for pellet stoves which are being picked up by Pastor Doug at our feed distribution site. Heat is an issue. People are cold.

On Saturday I made contact with two out of work individuals from Magalia who had lost their chain saws in the fire. They used to cut firewood to make extra money. Your donations have purchased two chain saws necessary to fulfill the need for firewood. The deal I made with them was that half the wood would have to be distributed to people in need and the other half can be sold to customers in Chico. I hope you approve of this donation. It seemed like a win win for everybody involved. This gave them hope that they could be in control of their world again.

The needs in Magalia for people in need are really quite simple. It’s gas money. Gas money gets them to and from the services in Chico. There are no stores available up there. They are all gone or closed. With no people there to shop, it will be a long time before they open. There’s talk about the hospital opening, but there may not enough patients to pay for staff. Sterling City is basically a town unemployed. All jobs lost.

I got to speak today with a person at Teigert who informed me that they were bidding on cleanup work. I had asked her to consider having a job fair once things got started. Pastor Doug was open to holding it at the church. I hope my suggestion is taken into consideration.

Our work in Magalia will continue through the winter. Your donations of gift cards and cash are the lifeline and I can’t thank you enough. I will continue this work until Pastor Doug says that we can take the tent down. That will be the first symbol that hope is being restored to the area.

Traveling through Paradise and the Magalia area is very sobering. There’s so much despair in people’s eyes, but as the initial shock starts to wear off, the gravity of the situation in Paradise is settling in. People were able to return to Paradise on Saturday for the day to get a look at their burnt out homes for the first time.

This gentleman returned home Saturday for the first time. He lost everything. I mean everything. He had rented the house for over twenty years. He had an internet business repairing espresso machines. He lost his inventory and twenty years of tools and parts. He lost his furniture, his library, and all the school work that he had saved all his life from when he was a child. His last name is Smile. It really is. There was not a lot I could say to him. He was shaking when I walked up to him and I just quietly listened for about 20 minutes while he spoke. He lives in a car currently.

I will remain in contact with him. There has to be hope.

This very nice lady returned to her burnt out trailer looking for only one thing, her husband’s cremated ashes. She found them to great relief.

She lost her thrift store. I asked her if she had insurance and she said she did, but the insurance company said they wouldn’t cover her because they had not received the check for her premium. She speculates it probably got burnt up at the Post Office. I told her I would call her in a couple of days and that maybe I could help her sort this out.

Understand that people are in a fog and they don’t know how to advocate for themselves at times, looking through the lens of despair. I know there is hope for her. We’re just going to throw some elbows and see what happens.

This gentleman searched through his trailer and found one item that survived. A plate. A simple plate. I think the plate is more than just a plate to him. It’s a symbol of hope. As he washed the plate my heart broke. From the ashes and all this insanity — there is hope.

This chimney is the only thing left standing at the trailer park. I’ve modified the picture greatly because this trailer park is where five souls were lost. I spoke to a lady going through this home where she lived. Nothing survived. She told me she found her dad’s ashes sitting on top of the stone mantel of the fireplace. The wood box they were in had burnt, but the ashes remained. It was really the only thing she had wanted. It seemed to bring a small glimmer of hope to her face. She told me her dad was a tough old bird and this proved it once and for all.

It’s a crazy world out there, but your donations have been handed to scores of people and with your donations the strength of hope.

My hope is that the Camp Fire victims will not be forgotten once all the roads are open and the media is gone. That is my hope.

I was asked what I wanted for Christmas. There is nothing. I still can’t even think about that. How could I want for anything after so many people have lost everything?

I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas. On behalf of the many people that your donations have touched, we say Thank You. With your donations and kindness hope is slowly being restored.

From the High-Hand Family to you and your family, Merry Christmas.


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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