It is the season of giving, a beautiful time of year when we all devote a portion of our thoughts to conceiving of the best and most thoughtful gifts we can for our friends and family. Here in California, though, we are stretching our thoughts a little wider.
Once again, California has been struck by deadly and disastrous fires. The Camp Fire in Butte County, already the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, has destroyed entire towns in its sweep. And at the same time, the Woolsey Fire has ignited Southern California, damaging large swaths of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. Between the two fires, there are 87 confirmed fatalities, with hundreds of people still missing and thousands more having lost everything to the flames.
California is in mourning. But we are not paralyzed by our grief. Rather, all across the state, Californians have mobilized to protect each other and to heal the losses we have all suffered. Here are some of our favorite ways to give back to California in the wake of this year’s wildfires:
California Community Foundation: The California Community Foundation Wildfire Relief Fund has been in operation since 2003 and has raised more than $5 million in that time to support in the relief and recovery efforts of many California wildfires, both intermediate and long-term. The grants provided through this fund provide direct financial aid for lost property and employment, medical care and supplies, and resources for upgrading valuable information systems. By providing general operating support to this foundation, you can be assured that your money is benefiting Californians in need, whatever their needs may be. Plus, the CCF is waiving all fees on gifts for this fund, so you know that 100 percent of your money is going to the community.
CDF Firefighter’s Benevolent Foundation: Following the death of firefighter Eva Marie Schicke in 2004, a group of California firefighters banded together in an effort to determine how to support firefighters and their families in times of need. This effort led to the establishment of the CDF Firefighter’s Benevolent Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting firefighters and their families in times of financial hardship and to supporting burn victims. It is organizations like the CDF Firefighter’s Benevolent Foundation that will be aiding the three firefighters injured while battling the Camp Fire and the 57 more who lost their homes to the same blazes they risked their lives to put out.
Mask Oakland: The organizers of Mask Oakland aren’t professional disaster relief professionals; they don’t pull from the FEMA or Red Cross strategies. Rather, they’re members of the Bay Area community who saw a need and stepped up to the plate. Last year, during the Tubbs Fire, these organizers saw many homeless people trapped outdoors in the smoke-polluted air, breathing in fumes and particles that could cause immediate and permanent damage. So the organization started buying N95 particulate masks and put out a call – if you have the money, donate to help provide masks to these folks in need. In that first year, they raised a few hundred dollars, which they parlayed into the distribution of about 4,000 masks. Now they’ve returned to the scenes to provide more than 85,000 masks, more than all Bay Area governments combined. Since the rain has cleaned up the air, they have shifted their attentions to providing ongoing aid to the homeless populations of Northern California, aiming to provide necessary funds for winterizing shelters and supplies to help those who can’t get inside.
Root & Rebound: There have been a lot of stories in the news about the brave firefighters battling the blazes here in California. In particular, many of us have been looking more closely at the inmate firefighters – the prisoners (men, women, and yes, even children) who are being paid a mere $1/hour to fight against 100-foot flames and preserve California’s towns and natural landscape. This injustice is made worse by knowing many state and local laws prevent these qualified individuals from becoming firefighters and first responders when they finish serving their time, even in spite of California’s recent Ban the Box law. This is why the work of Root & Rebound, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the successful reentry to society of formerly incarcerated peoples, is so valuable. The organization advocates for the rights of these individuals, seeking to ensure that they have access to the resources they need to successfully reintegrate into society, including resources for housing, employment, education, family reunification, and financial stability.
CBA Fire Relief: We here in the music community know how healing music can be, how we take solace and comfort in the acoustics of a good instrument. All of which makes it more heartbreaking to realize that many members of our own bluegrass community have lost everything in these fires – their homes, their jobs, and yes, their instruments. We in the California Bluegrass Association don’t know much about housing or medical relief, but we do know about guitars and banjos, fiddles and mandolins. We are raising money to help replace people’s lost instruments, to give folks the gift of music to help them through these challenging times.
Art provided care of 3 Fish Studios, designed by Annie Galvin. Used by permission.