What does it mean to be a volunteer? In the world of disaster response, that’s not an easy question to answer. From immediate response, to long term recovery, a volunteer at different stages fills many different roles. Each step along the way requires patience and compassion for those affected. Today we’ll be looking at the wildfires Hope Crisis Response Network is currently responding to in Northern California. Our volunteers have been assisting on twelve different fires that have affected Northern California over the last three years.
The first phase we’ll be looking at is immediate response. The Carr and Mendocino Complex Fires are the two most recent fires. The Mendocino Complex Fire is the largest in state history, burning over 450 square miles.
Our volunteers and staff found themselves working in emergency shelters stationed throughout Lake County, distributing clothing and serving meals among other roles.
The immediate needs of survivors were our focus, because the emotional toll of being evacuated put a huge strain on the mental and emotional well being of all the survivors. At this stage, our volunteers acted as a first step, showing compassion and the love of Christ to those in need. As of this writing, both the Carr Fire and the Mendocino Complex fires are still burning, but not threatening homes at this time.
As homeowners move into the recovery phase, volunteers provide assistance through the physical work of rebuilding a home. Losing a home and all your possessions is highly traumatic. There’s no easy way for families to move forward except by one step at a time.
As foundations are poured and the frames of a house are put in, our volunteers have the unique opportunity to talk and get to know the families.
Currently, we are rebuilding homes in Lake County for homeowners who suffered losses in fires over the last three years.
We’ve just begun rebuilding work in Mendocino County, where the Redwood Valley Fire of 2017 destroyed over 500 structures. It’s at this stage where our volunteers can help with the healing process by working on home builds.
We encourage our volunteers to talk and share meals with the families whose homes they’re helping to rebuild.
It allows the homeowners a chance connect with one a personal level, and it’s an opportunity for the volunteers to listen and comfort. Our homeowners aren’t statistics, they’re people and they are our friends.
As we complete the building phase, Hope City staff and volunteers host what we call home dedications.
This is when homes have passed their final inspections and our homeowners can move in and begin their new normal. When all the paper work is filed and approved, we hold a special little moment to welcome families into their new homes.
The survivors of the Valley Fire of 2015 have found so much comfort in having a home again.
“I was depressed, but now I’m so happy. We wake up at 6 AM and start working,” said Maria Guzman. She and her husband are full of so much joy, it’s hard to remember how difficult waiting can be. That’s why the dedications are so important.
Our homeowners have come home, and that’s something to celebrate.
We need volunteers, and, more importantly, the people affected by the wildfires of Northern California need your help. If you or your church are looking for your next mission trip, we ask that you consider working with Hope Crisis Response Network. Your efforts are what makes these families returning home possible.
You can volunteer by emailing [email protected] to schedule your team today or calling our office at 877-936-HOPE.