I was spared from any great disasters when I was little, but there was plenty of news of them in newspapers and on the radio, and there were graphic images of them in newsreels.
For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world.
There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.
(Fred Rogers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 6 September 2004)
The season that is currently upon us, beloved patrons, is one in which we are encouraged to put the needs of others before ourselves, to share what we have without thought of return–essentially, to be humane, as well as human, during a period of the year that is particularly difficult for us as a species. We give gifts to those we love to show some tangible manifestation of our bond–a display of warmth during the deepening cold. We hang lights to drive away the darkness of the encroaching winter. We sing song to remember that we are not alone. Regardless of your belief system, this is a time of year during which we are encouraged to look beyond ourselves and consider and perhaps even celebrate the ways in which we are bound up in each other.
This year, a great many of our long-distance neighbors in California are facing the process of remembering, recovering, rebuilding after devastating wildfires destroyed their homes, their possession, and killed those they loved. Indeed, we are breathing in the effects of those fires even here on the other side of the continent. In the spirit of the season, and in keeping with our policy of providing you information on how to help others most effectively, we wanted to bring you some information about institutions and organizations that could use your kindness and consideration now more than ever.
As reported by the American Library Association, the Paradise California Library is still intact. Additionally, the remaining five branches in the Butte county system are still operational and have become information centers, offering computers, Wi-Fi, and printers to help displaced residents contact insurance companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies. Butte County Library Director Melanie Lightbody recognized just how critical libraries are to communities in crisis, explaining that “We are more than just a library but a symbol of hope to the community and a community center, which we will be once again.” If you are in a position to give, Sara Jones, director of the Marin County (Calif.) Free Library, and the California Library Association has established a fundraiser for the fire-ravaged library system. has set up a fundraiser on Facebook to ensure the library system “will have sufficient financial resources to create and maintain a dynamic modern library system,” to replace the books that were destroyed in patrons’ homes, and to continue to assist in rebuilding efforts.
While we are too far away for donations of food, clothing, or other items to be helpful at this moment, money is a resource that can literally change lives. To that end, here are some institutions that are doing good on the ground in California that could use your help:
- A longstanding local institution, the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund has offered aid to those affected by wildfires for the past 15 years. Grants have gone to rebuilding homes, providing financial and mental health assistance and helping those affected to get medical treatment.
- The North Valley Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Chico that is raising money to support organizations and institutions providing shelter for evacuees of the Camp Fire. Such locations include churches, fairgrounds and community centers, and all could use support in order to provide the most and best help to those who need it.
- Likewise, the California Fire Foundation is on the ground distributing financial assistance to people who have lost everything in the fires. Through its emergency assistance program, firefighters distribute pre-paid gift cards to help those who need to purchase necessities like food, medicine and clothing.
- The Red Cross is providing both shelter and emotional support for evacuees. You can visit RedCross.org, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make an automatic $10 donation.
- Additionally, The United Way of Northern California has set up a relief fund for victims. Go to the designated website to donate, or text “BUTTEFIRE” to 91999. The fund will provide emergency cash to victims and aid the United Way in its response to the fire. Businesses and organizations that want to contribute to the fund can call Jacob Peterson at (530) 241-7521 or (916) 218-5424; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Another organization called Baby2Baby is working to get high-need items to children affected by the ongoing Camp, Hill, and Woolsey fires in California. Help them supply diapers, wipes, blankets, and other basic baby essentials to families in need by purchasing from their registry.
- The Veterinary Catastrophic Need Fund pays some of the cost of veterinary medical treatments for animals injured in the Camp Fire at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis. Injured and burned cats, horses, pigs, goats and other animals are receiving care. Call (530) 752-7024 or go to their website to contribute.
- Additionally, at the request of Butte County, the Humane Society of the United States has set up a longer-term, temporary shelter in Richvale, California, to house and care for owned animals, whose families have been displaced by the wildfires. To donate to the Emergency Animal Rescue Fund, visit their website or call 866-720-2676. You can also purchase items like food and toys through their Amazon wish list, which will be delivered right to the shelters in need.
- For more information, visit Red Rover’s website to find out how you can help our four-legged friends during this time.
As always, if this is not a time that is good for you to give, have no fear. Although reports are stating that the fires are now completely contained, disasters on the scale with which those in California are being forced to deal will take years to overcome. Your help and support are always encouraged, in whatever form you can provide it.
Thank you for your thoughts, your goodwill, and your assistance. You make our community what it is, and there is plenty enough love among us to share with those who need it–this time of the year, and always!