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Local organizations team up on Rocky fire relief fund

Friday, August 7, 2015

As the Rocky fire slowly starts to die down, those affected can start to take stock of what has happened. Thousands of evacuees will go home to assess the damages. Fortunately for most, they will have a home to return to; for those who don’t it’s the start of a long, painful, and expensive road back to normalcy. Even for those without property damage, many evacuees spend their savings on hotels and eating out. For them, the process of rebuilding a safety net can take a long time.

In the wake of such a widespread disaster affecting so many Lake County residents, one question comes up over and over again: “How can I help?” The generosity of the human spirit is never more apparent than during a time of crisis. In the spirit of providing an outlet for that generosity, North Coast Opportunities (NCO), MendoLake Credit Union (MLCU), and the Lake County Social Services Department have teamed up to create a fund for those affected by the Rocky fire.

MCLU is an active presence in Lake County and is committed to the communities it serves. MCLU will match the first $5,000 in donations, effectively doubling donors’ dollars.  “One-third of our membership base is located in Lake County, and our Clearlake office has already seen the need from members who have lost everything,” said MLCU CEO Richard Cooper. “MLCU is all about people helping people, and our mission is to support the economic wellbeing of the communities we serve.”

NCO is the Community Action Agency for Lake and Mendocino Counties, and part of its mission is to serve those in need during emergency situations. The fund was officially set up by NCO as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. “Our values as an organization and as concerned citizens compelled us to act,” said NCO Executive Director Patty Bruder. “As soon as the fund was set up, word got out and donations started coming in. It’s heart-warming to see people rallying around those affected by the fire.”

The fund will be managed by a committee that is currently being formed. Although Lake County doesn’t have a “Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster” (VOAD) group, NCO is active in Mendocino County’s VOAD and will apply those policies to creating the committee. It will include employees and/or Board Members of NCO, MLCU, and the Lake County Social Services Department, plus an equal number of Lake County representatives from other organizations and the general community. Those affected by the fire can apply for assistance, and the committee will determine how to distribute the funds once the fire has been fully contained and all impacts can be assessed. More details will be available about how to apply for the fund on both NCO and MLCU’s websites and Facebook accounts.

MCLU Director of Marketing and Community Outreach Jamey Gill lives on Cobb Mountain, and has seen firsthand the effects of the fire on her fellow Lake County residents. “Several of our own team members live in the fire zone, so this is very close to home for all of us,” explains Gill.  She will serve on the committee tasked with administering and disbursing the fund.

During a Town Hall meeting in Lakeport on August 6, Senator Mike McGuire and several Lake County officials gave updates on the Rocky fire, and MLCU was mentioned several times as a “safe place” to make monetary donations. Unfortunately, while most people want to help, there are always a few to try to capitalize on the misfortune of others. Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin encouraged people to donate only to reputable organizations, including the MLCU/NCO fund. “It’s important to note that 100% of funds collected will go straight to those affected,” points out Bruder. “We will not use any of it to cover administrative costs.” She also notes that all donations are tax deductible.

Anyone wishing to donate to the Rocky fire relief fund can go in person to any MLCU branch, or send a check to MLCU made out to NCO with “Rocky fire” in the notes field. There is also a PayPal account set up to accept online donations, which can be found on the front pages of both the NCO and MLCU websites. For more information on how to donate, how to apply for funds, or how to apply to serve on the management committee, contact NCO Executive Assistant Elizabeth Archer: earcher@ncoinc.org, (707) 467-3210.