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Above: The TLC board met last on November 20, and will meet again on December 18 at Twin Pine Casino in Middletown. These meetings are open to the public.

NCO teams up with Lake County on long-term recovery

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

With the fire long subsided and the rains starting to come, Lake County is turning its attention toward long-term recovery from the summer wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes and tens of thousands of acres. A major player in that recovery process is Team Lake County (TLC), a volunteer-led long-term recovery group. Recognized by the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), TLC is comprised of non-governmental agencies, faith-based groups, and interested individuals, and seeks to identify needs and fill gaps in services across all impacted areas of Lake County.

TLC has elected a board consisting of 11 members which is chaired by Shelly Mascari, Director of Community Wellness at Adventist Health. In addition to officers, the board is comprised of representatives from each TLC committee, including Volunteer, Finance, Donations, Construction/Housing, Case Management, Spirituality and Counseling, Communications, and Community Assessment committees. Each committee meets regularly and reports on progress at the board meetings, which take place at the Twin Pine Casino & Hotel in Middletown. The next meeting is Friday, December 18 at 10 am. "Our focus through TLC is long range – a marathon and not a sprint,” says Mascari. “We are committed to supporting our communities and individuals in the months and even years ahead to rebuild.”

According to TLC Communications Committee Chair Erroll Marchais, “As a network of non-profits and business organizations active in our community, TLC is in a unique position to coordinate the vast local and national resources available to aid in Lake County's recovery.”

Participating TLC partners offer services at no charge to fire survivors, including needs assessments, housing assistance, spiritual guidance, insurance consulting, and property clean up. These services are funded exclusively by donations and grants, and the TLC board votes on how to allocate funds. For example, TLC is working with Habitat for Humanity to expand the reach of home repairs and new construction for low-income families. Funds provided through TLC will never need to be paid back, nor will any labor or other costs be charged as part of the services provided.

In order to efficiently raise and disburse funds, TLC sought fiscal sponsorship from North Coast Opportunities (NCO), a 501c3 organization that serves as the Community Action Agency for Lake and Mendocino Counties. NCO had previously responded to the fires through the Lake County Wildfire Relief Fund, which disbursed $1.49 million in direct aid to over 1,000 fire survivors. Intended for emergency relief, the fund closed on November 2, and NCO has since shifted its focus to long-term recovery efforts. As the fiscal sponsor for TLC, all additional funds raised go straight to TLC to be voted on by the board. “People know a donation to NCO will go directly to fire survivors,” says NCO Executive Assistant Elizabeth Archer. “Partnering with TLC lets us channel all additional funds raised into recovery efforts done for the community, by the community.” Donations are still being accepted at Mendo Lake Credit Union, Tri Counties Bank, and Savings Bank of Mendocino County.

NCO Executive Director Patty Bruder is the finance committee chair, and she agrees that the partnership between NCO and TLC is a perfect fit. “We’re so proud to be part of this team, and we know that by working together we can be efficient, avoid duplicating efforts, and maximize available resources to have the highest possible impact. It’s pretty exciting,” says Bruder.

It's a learning process for all of us, but our hearts are here,” adds Mascari. “We believe that together Lake County will become even stronger than before the Valley Fire."

To learn more about TLC, visit www.teamlakecounty.org or facebook.com/teamlakecounty. To donate to long-term relief efforts, click here