Grant Supports Continued Help To Fire Survivors
Updated: Jun 20, 2019
WPE awarded grant for ongoing work with Camp Fire Survivors
The North Valley Community Foundation generously awarded a grant to White Pony Express to support our ongoing help to survivors of last year's devastating "Camp Fire". The grant was given specifically to help cover the costs of transportation for bringing food, clothing, and volunteer help from our Pleasant Hill Distribution Center to people in need in Butte, Yuba, Tehama, and Glenn Counties in the aftermath of the fire and for months beyond.
North Country Deliveries to Feed Body and Soul
by Judith Parker
Within days after hearing about the Camp Fire last fall, WPE began delivering meals to survivors that were not being served by the Red Cross. We did not anticipate the ongoing scope of the need for food as a result of the complex and slow recovery process that many survivors have experienced.
In January this year, FEMA invited WPE to begin food delivery to those still living in FEMA trailer parks. As we began to deliver food to those survivors, we had the opportunity to get to know some of the people and learn more about their personal situation. Clothing was a need in the winter months, and now everyone needs summer clothes as well.
The White Pony General Store is providing the clothing that we continue to bring with our food deliveries. Smiles, hugs and conversation are shared. Volunteers tell us that according to some survivors, our delivery is the highlight of the week!
We know that with these trips up north we are feeding both the body and the soul. This emotional connection and the feelings of genuine 1:1 support are critical for survivors still struggling to recover from the trauma so many experienced during and after the fires.
One of our goals with this program is to provide fresh food to survivors, but important to local sustainability our intention is to support the local agencies and volunteers who are, and continue to be, most involved in the recovery efforts.
The North State Food Bank was happy to have our help and we formed a partnership with them to keep these efforts going locally. They have provided WPE several hundred pounds of fresh produce each week that we take to those in need. The North State Food Bank and the Jesus Center are expanding to create a food rescue program through donations from area grocery stores and farmers.
A few weeks ago representatives from both agencies visited our General Store and Food Rescue distribution centers in Pleasant Hill to see first-hand our Contra Costa County operations. It was a great opportunity to share our 5+ years of experience and help them develop their own programs based on the WPE model. We hope to continue to meet with them regularly and plan to work more together as new needs arise.
Recently FEMA opened up a Mobile Home Project in Oroville. Out of the forty homes, eleven had individuals in wheelchairs. Most had been “living” in hotels or in their cars for six months. Many had almost no clothes or household items and some did not have a car or gas money to shop for groceries or other necessities.
Some of these folks needed food right away. Volunteers from White Pony Express, the North State Food Bank and local volunteers made a special trip to the mobile home park bringing food and household items – everything from toilet paper to pans and dishes.
We visited every trailer and assessed their needs. Some had pets but no pet food. Volunteers made special trips to get pet food and gather donated household items to deliver to those who needed them.
Brian, a local volunteer has “adopted” this park and makes a weekly delivery of food and checks in on the most vulnerable. It became clear one of the challenges of the FEMA parks is the isolation from the neighboring communities especially those with no transportation.
We were touched by these resilient people who had gone through so much and recognized that they needed more than just food, clothing, and encouraging words. They needed a restored sense of community and connection.
We came up with the idea of a “Friendly Visitor” program where churches or local clubs could adopt a park and make regular visits to socialize, but also help with some of the most vulnerable with their daily needs – such as a ride to the doctor or grocery store or assistance tracking down a needed service or agency.
We are delighted that one church has come forward in Oroville to start this program and they want to adopt this very same park in Oroville with the 40 families. We are very excited to see how this new initiative works and are hopeful more churches will come forward to adopt a FEMA park in their community.
These recovery efforts are such a great example how important it is for agencies to work together to make a difference in the daily lives of this amazing community of Camp Fire survivors.
All of Us Taking Care of All of Us.
One person, or one agency can make a difference in a community recovering from such a devastating fire disaster. But it really does take a whole community working together to make a lastly difference.