Office of the Bishop Contributes to Fire Recovery Efforts

Office of the Bishop Contributes to Fire Recovery Efforts

by Paula Schaap, Communications Director

Last year, Nancy Carter, a parishioner at St. John’s, Lakeport, was struggling to get through a mound of clothing and other items donated to the church’s thrift shop to help people displaced by the Valley fire. The thrift shop volunteers had closed the store for a short time to allow them to sort things out.

Carter saw, out of the corner of her eye, a man entering the shop. She was about to tell him they were closed when instead, she said: “Oh, Bishop!”

It was Bishop Barry Beisner who had arrived, carrying gift cards to help families purchase much-needed necessities.

In August, the relief effort received a $15,000 check from the Bishop’s Fire Relief Fund to help, not only with the Clayton fire, but also the continuing needs that are still left over from last year's much larger Valley fire. As of June 30, the fund had collected $110,000, including a $10,000 grant from Episcopal Relief and Development, of which $53,000 has been disbursed so far.

“It’s a hard-hit community and every dollar helps,” said Deborah Smith, the treasurer of St. John’s, who is also a certified volunteer for the Red Cross. Smith helps manage shelters and then provides casework services to assist people once immediate shelter needs are resolved.

The Clayton fire destroyed 200 dwellings, Smith said. Terrible as this year’s fire was, it came nowhere near the Valley Fire in 2015, where 1,200 single-family homes were destroyed, as well as multi-family dwellings that left thousands homeless.

Successive years of fire have taken their toll. The Butts fire in Yolo County also affected the region in 2014.

Smith said that everyone feels that “this is too much. We have people who have been evacuated three times.”

Up in the hills around Clear Lake, people live surrounded by natural beauty, but it’s also an isolated existence. Volunteers from Wingfield Deanery, organized by the Rev. Susan Napoliello from St. Luke’s, Calistoga, paid a recent visit to St. John’s and came with a dual mission. They were bringing food pantry items purchased with funds raised by congregations and individuals in the deanery responding to the St. John’s Food Pantry Challenge, as well as donated items for the thrift shop.

But they also came to provide much-needed physical, emotional and spiritual support by providing lunch for the thrift shop volunteers and open ears.

“The fear of fire is phenomenal,” Carter told the visitors over lunch. “We have to find spiritual help for this county. Everyone feels isolated with their fear.”

Yet, St. John’s isn’t going to let fear stop them from bringing solace and God’s love to their community.

St. John’s is a “tiny church that’s trying to do mighty things,” Smith said.

If you wish to contribute to the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund, which Bishop Beisner uses to assist people in need of all kinds, including for fire-related relief, you can send a check payable to “EDNC” and note in the memo that it’s for the “Discretionary Fund.” Checks can be mailed to: The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, 350 University Ave., Suite 280, Sacramento, CA 95825.

If you would like to contribute, or otherwise be involved with the Wingfield Deanery’s St. John’s Food Pantry Challenge, please e-mail the Rev. Susan Napoliello at

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