Helping out in time of need
The Wilkinson School community works to collect donations for victims of the North Bay fires. Photo courtesy Stephanie Weber

The proximity of the North Bay fires has spurred many locals into action.

At Wilkinson School, a cluster of concerned parents put out a call for clothing and toiletries. The response was overwhelming, as the donations received were enough to fill a trailer.

“My mom had been saying, ‘Oh, there are some small fires up by Santa Rosa.’ I was like, OK, little small fires, they will be out soon enough. Now they are these huge fires. It’s crazy,” said Maddalena Hylton, an eighth-grade student at Wilkinson. “The people that I talk to, just kids here, they have friends and relatives that they know of that have had to evacuate. It’s kind of weird to see how many people that you know, and that they know, who were affected by it.”

“Even if their house survived, their clothes might be smoky, maybe some of their things have been ruined,” added Annie Morris. “So it’s important that they have access to replacements.”

Because of the diminished air quality, many of Wilkinson’s usual outdoor activities, like recess and P.E., were moved indoors. Some students elected to spend the time they’d normally be outside helping to sort the expanding pile of donations.

“We sorted the piles of donations during P.E.,” said eighth-grade student Ona Weinert.

“We separated, toiletries, men’s clothing, women’s clothing, and kids clothing,” added Hylton. “We put them all in these giant, black bags.”

“I remember bagging up blankets,” said Sammie Morris. “Those seem like they would be important.

At Mizu Hair Salon, the focus was on the four-legged fire victims. In the corner of the salon sat a heap of pet supplies, all intended for the cats, dogs and other animals impacted by the fires.

“We basically did a shout-out to the community, to our database of customers who follow us. We asked them to please bring in items for horses, dogs, cats or whomever,” said salon owner Carla Yamanaka. “We asked for a variety of things like bridles, treats and food bowls.”

“We are all so personally invested in what’s happening down there,” said Tyler Wilson, who also works at the salon. “Carla and I drafted the email (on Oct. 11) and had it sent out first thing Thursday morning. By 11 a.m. we had a woman come to the shop with a carful of items.”

On Tuesday, Wilson traveled with Taran Rowe, another stylist from the salon, to drive the donated supplies to a contact within the impacted area. Members of the Mizu team will also be donating services as part of a silent auction project. Those looking for anything from eyelash extensions to haircuts to color services can bid on those services. Proceeds from the silent auction will go directly to those impacted by the fire. For more information on the silent auction, call Mizu Hair Salon at 726-2088.

While pet supplies, especially dog kibble and other edibles, are still being accepted, websites of many of the regional charitable organizations say that they have stopped accepting donated clothing and other such items. Those who are wishing to help, but have not yet done so, should consider making a cash donation instead.

The Redwood Credit Union, in partnership with the RCU Community Fund Inc., The Press Democrat, and state Sen. Mike McGuire, is accepting financial donations to assist fire victims and aid relief efforts. Visit redwoodcu.org/northbayfirerelief for details.

The Salvation Army has also set up an online giving site asking for support as the organization continues to provide food and water to evacuees and first responders as well as emotional and spiritual care. Those wishing to donate to the fund can visit disaster.salvationarmyusa.org for details.

On the coast, local students are working to raise money to support wildfire victims.

“Kids 4 Change is a non-profit organization, also with Teens 4 Change. Every once in a while we get together and try to raise money and supplies in support of certain groups,” said Hudson Webster, a seventh-grade student at Sea Crest School. “In the past, we’ve done war events. We’ve done fires like this. Right now, what we’re hoping to do is to collect money and to donate it to a certain cause, to all the people who have been impacted by the fires, which is horrible.”

“The fires are happening so close to us, many of us know of people whose houses have been destroyed,” added Kaiya Hanepen. “They’ve lost everything, their homes, their belongings, everything. We’d like to help get them the essentials that they need to live.”

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