We love hosting AmeriCorps teams. For the last several years, HCRN and our building project, Hope City, have been host to AmeriCorps teams from NCCC. This organization allows young adults to give a year of service and experience a wide variety of projects aimed at bettering communities. Their service is broken up into three rounds over the course of nine months. For third round this year, we’ve had a truly amazing and selfless group who have blown us away with their efficiency and desire to help. Part of their time with us, they have assisted in Butte County, where the Camp Fire destroyed 15,000 homes and has led to a crisis of access to drinking water. We sat down with one of the team members, Elora Bossert, to get an idea of their impact on the community, and the community’s impact on them.

They began their two week stint in Butte by visiting work sites in Paradise and Magalia. They were taken through communities that were completely destroyed, shown what clean up looks like after a massive fire, and spoke with our project leaders, Tim and Sue Saunders. It’s truly impossible to put into words what seeing that level of devastation is like. From that moment, the team was dedicated to helping this community.

Since it’s still early in the recovery phase, several distribution centers are currently operating. These centers focus on feeding survivors, providing some items such as toiletries and clothing, and most importantly for Paradise, clean drinking water. Our crew served in three distribution centers, two in Magalia and one in Paradise. Magalia is a smaller community that also lost a large part of it’s community to the Camp Fire. The team served meals, and distributed water bottles, but, most importantly, they talked with fire survivors.

We asked Elora to tell us what it’s like being in Paradise and Magalia. She said, “Most [people] are fire survivors and living in trailers or down in [the neighboring town of] Chico. Some have their homes, but the water is not safe yet.” Elora pointed out how kind everyone was, even after the tragedy. She and her team have helped disaster survivors before, as one of their earlier rounds had them working in Florida, after a hurricane. For her, seeing the scope of the destruction is something else entirely. She was surprised at the way the community has responded to this tragedy. Elora said, “There’s a guy who lost his house, but he comes [to the distribution center] everyday. He feels like it’s what he has to do for his community. You don’t have to stop just because things have gone wrong. Even when it doesn’t look like there’s anything you can do. You can still help other people.”

Elora Bossert on a work site in Mendocino County

Since they were in Butte for only two weeks, their work feels like a whirlwind. AmeriCorps team members learn to serve and meet the needs of specific communities. Elora and the rest of the team were able to witness a community meeting where Paradise leaders passed their long term recovery plan. There’s so much more to do though. “People out here are still here. Most of the properties out here aren’t gonna be built for a while. It’s not over just because you aren’t hearing about it. They still need food and water,” said Elora.

HCRN is so proud to host these teams, and amazed by their hearts for service. There’s so much work yet to be done, and Elora hit it on the head: it’s not over just because you aren’t hearing about it. If you’d like to be a part of restoring communities across Northern California impacted by these wildfires, contact Travis Cox at [email protected] or give him a call at 574-333-7728.