Today, we’re going to talk with Ariel Cottrell from her newly rebuilt home. She lost her home in the Valley Fire that tore through Middletown in 2015. As we arrived for the interview, she greeted us on her lovely little porch and asked if we’d like a homemade latte. Her demeanor is that of relief and excitement, although she did apologize for not being fully unpacked just yet. With the windows cracked and a soft breeze blowing through the neighborhood of Anderson Springs, we had a lovely chat with Ariel about the process of getting home.

Ariel’s story begins with the purchase of her home 10 months prior to the Valley Fire. She had loved her home hidden in the forest that was Anderson Springs. The tall tress and peaceful shade were a comfort away from a bustling city, but the fire changed all of that. The number of homes lost in Anderson Springs and the surrounding areas caused its own housing crisis, and rents skyrocketed because there simply was not enough living space for everyone.

Despite the pandemic, HCRN was able schedule her final inspection, and Ariel was able to move into her home. “I have the most beautiful little porch. I’ve been really enjoying sitting on my porch and greeting my neighbors,” Ariel said. The landscape in the neighborhood has changed in the years since the Valley Fire, but much of the nature is returning, growing in new ways. The trees may be gone, but the curve of the hills, the new rebuilds, it’s all bringing a sense of normalcy and joy to Anderson Springs.

There is a kindness imbedded throughout the house. As volunteers built, they left kind messages and prayers written on studs that would be covered by drywall and paint. Ariel said, “The best thing is that it’s built with love and the second best thing is that it’s mine.” The lightness and excitement in her voice makes it easy to smile and laugh along with her. It’s a house built with love, and Ariel would like the volunteers to know that you’ve changed her life for the better.

To all of our volunteers, we thank you for all of the work you’ve done with HCRN on our responses here in Northern California since 2015. We know how difficult this pandemic is, and so many of our postponed teams are excited for when they can safely make the trip to rebuild for people like Ariel. Stay safe, be responsible, and know that when this is all over we will be waiting with grateful hearts. Later this month, we’ll address more in depth how the global pandemic is affecting our work and ways we’re continuing to Rebuild Homes and Restore Lives.