Donations Still Needed as Fire-damaged Communities Rebuild

Donations Still Needed as Fire-damaged Communities Rebuild

In mid-October, as fires were still raging across Northern California, Molly's Revenge, a Celtic trio featuring an assortment of flutes, bagpipes, strings, a vocalist and Irish dancers, called the Rev. Cliff Haggenjos of St. John’s, Roseville, with some good news: The date of Dec. 10 had opened on their schedule, and they wondered if the church would be interested in hosting their Winterdance show.

December is an unusually busy time for clergy, and knowing that the bishop was scheduled to visit a week later, at first Father Cliff was hesitant to say yes. But, after briefly praying and listening for the Holy Spirit, he realized that the event could quickly be turned into a benefit for fire relief. 

So he found a donor to foot the band’s bill, and announced that all the proceeds for the evening would go to Bishop Barry’s discretionary fund, which the bishop has been using to write checks to churches in the diocese that are helping those affected by the fires. 

The folks at St. John's are great fans of the band, which has performed there many times in the past, often helping to raise funds for the congregation's outreach to Haiti and Uganda. 

St. John’s had donated $5,000 for fire relief before the event, and Fr. Cliff said he has another $5,000 now to give the bishop during his Dec. 17 visitation. It was a very successful event, with about 130 people attending the rollicking show.

After a prayer for the people of Southern California who are now going through firestorms, Fr. Cliff told the crowd, "Having spent the first four years of my ministry in Napa, I knew many of the people whose lives were affected by these fires. It was easy to say yes once I realized we could help in this way. I also knew the people of St. John's would get behind this event. Many of our folks had family and friends who were affected. Some who evacuated came up to stay with them until they were allowed to return to their homes."

During the intermission, several people walked up to the Rev. James Richardson, who spoke of his experiences at Incarnation, Santa Rosa, helping those affected by the fires, offering their stories and an offer of a recreational vehicle for someone displaced by the fire.

Incarnation, Santa Rosa

Pastor Jim said “We have experienced an amazing outpouring of generosity since the October fires that killed more than 40 people and destroyed more than 9,000 structures in our region. In our parish, we know of 11 families who have lost homes.

“To date we have collected more than $80,000 for our fire relief efforts. We are exceedingly grateful for your contributions. Most of these donations have come from outside parish, including from a family foundation that has given us an unsolicited grant of $10,000. We also collected more than $2,700 at a recent fire relief concert we hosted in the church.

“We are using these funds to help those who are the most vulnerable, and are “falling between the cracks” with government agencies or other charitable organizations. Here are a few ways we are spending these funds:

  • Rent aid for a family who lost not only their apartment but whose dad lost his job when the hotel where he worked burned.
  • Rent for a woman who lost her income when the houses she cleans burned. She has since begun rebuilding her clientele.
  • We assisted with car repairs for a young man whose car top melted while he was helping others evacuate.
  • A hotel room for a mom and her daughter who were living in their car after being burned out of their apartment. We subsequently paid the first month’s rent for them for a new apartment.
  • One month’s rent for a single mother whose condominium burned; she had only minimal contents insurance.
  • Gift cards for a gardener who lost not only his home but all of his tools.

“We’ve been assisting people in other ways as well. We have a camper truck parked in the church parking lot. The couple living inside it lost their apartment and its contents and they had no insurance. The camper is not street-legal, so we are allowing them park until it is fixed and they find a new place to live.

“We are also exploring the possibility of using one of our Sunday School rooms during the week for a licensed child care provider who lost their home-based business during the fire.

“Great thanks goes to Stacy Duvall, who is connected to us through her work on our website, and David Jasper, our treasurer. The two have become our unofficial case managers, working with each of these families as they rebuild their lives. None of this could be done without them – or without your generosity. You can still donate by writing a check to the Church of the Incarnation with “fire relief” in the notation line or by going on-line to our donation page.

St. Stephen's, Sebastopol

Pastor Jim has been in close contact with Deacon Kate Sefton at St. Stephen's and says she is “still working overtime on this and connecting with other, secular organizations.”

St. Luke's, Calistoga

Meanwhile, In Calistoga, Deacon Susan Napoliello of St. Luke’s gave this update:

“We have a partnership with the UpValley Family Centers, a nonprofit doing amazing work in responding to the needs of our community. I just spoke with the Calistoga Program, Indira Lopez, when I brought in St. Luke's Christmas Adopt a Family contribution for a single mom and her son. She said they are very busy, but have received amazing financial support to help families and seniors impacted by the fires. So far they have been able to find shelter (for their clients) and address basic needs. At the moment, they are well-resourced.

“As a congregation, we have been listening to ourselves, each other and our neighbors. … I have heard young adults express anxieties that initially appear to be driven by the fires, but underneath express deep concerns regarding events of the past six months: for example, incidents of racism, sexism, human violence and natural disasters. Seniors, even those with safe places to go during the evacuation, ruminate about the vulnerability they experienced coupled with anxiety for the direction of our country.” She said is thinking about how to get people together to talk about their feelings and how to listen to one another.

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