With news that the Camp Fire is the worst residential fire in California's history (nearly 9,000 homes have burned and counting) AND with no expectation that fire crews can likely get the raging firestorm under control until the end of the month(!!!), I'm counting my blessings for my safe and secure neighborhood - despite the fact that it's tough to go outside. I can't recall a time when the air quality has been this unhealthy.
It feels like the apocalypse, especially for those who have lost everything, including their entire communities.
I've no answers, only prayers, so Cliff and I are picking up paint brushes and volunteering for "Rebuilding Together Oakland/East Bay," an organization that provides physical labor to homeowners whose homes have seen better days. On Saturday, a group of us are coming together to paint the exterior of a home for a single mother who supports not only her special-needs child, but her elderly mother as well (I can relate). At least we can do something locally.
But what about the displaced folks up north and down south? What can we do for them?
Donate money! In an emergency, the single most important donation is money - not blankets, tents, teddy bears or towels; it's CASH! With cash donations, organizations can decide what's most important and purchase the things they need right now, including medical aid, food, water, social services, etc.
But where to donate???
Here are five relief organizations that have been recommended by Daniel Borochoff, founder of Charity Watch:
Direct Relief is an international medical-relief organization based in Goleta, Calif. It distributes particulate masks to aid those who have asthma and other medical conditions made worse by the smoke and ash. Direct Relief has already distributed tens of thousands of masks this summer. It also distributes medication to people forced to flee their homes and move into shelters.
Operation USA, based in Los Angeles, has been working with corporations that are able to donate items such as masks, gloves, work boots, and shovels to help rescue workers in areas damaged by the wildfires. It also provides basic needs for those displaced from their homes, such as blankets, water, and basic hygiene items.
The American Red Cross is operating evacuation shelters, and Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California to provide food, housing, and a place to store personal items, among other things.
The Haven Humane Society based in Anderson, Calif., is taking in stray pets, giving first aid to animals that have been burned or otherwise affected by the fires, and providing pet food and other supplies. The number of animals under the charity's care rose from 100 before the wildfires began to 700 earlier this month.
Finally, give for the long term. The effects of disasters such as the California wildfires can go on for months, if not for years, so consider signing on for monthly contributions.
Let's help one another.
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.