NCO sends checks to 688 fire survivors
Friday, December 15, 2017
The 2017 wildfire season continues to rage in California, with the southern part of the state currently experiencing massive devastation. Those impacted by the October fires in North Coast counties understand what their fellow Californians are going through, and also understand what the days, weeks, and months ahead will look like now that there has been some time to process what happened and think about next steps to move forward. It’s a long, painful process, and one of the few silver linings is that it has brought the community together in a remarkable way.
North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (NCO) has been a collaborative partner in that process, working with county offices, area organizations, and fire survivors to help with immediate and intermediate needs. NCO partnered with Redwood Credit Union Community Foundation to raise and distribute funds directly to those impacted by the fires in Lake and Mendocino Counties. In Mendocino County, NCO also partnered with the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, Savings Bank of Mendocino County, and Community First Credit Union.
Anyone impacted by the fire – including those who experienced full loss, partial loss, lost wages, and/or evacuation costs – was eligible to apply to the Wildfire Relief Fund, which closed on November 30. As of Friday, December 8, $783,738 had been disbursed to 688 fire survivors across both counties. NCO received 729 applications to the Fire Relief Fund, and the remaining 38 that have not been funded require additional information to be verified.
Fire survivors with full loss were sent $2,000, and other applicants received lesser amounts based on their circumstances. “It’s worth noting that money received from a non-profit organization to help with an emergency is not taxable income,” explains NCO Executive Director Patty Bruder. “This money is intended to help people get back on their feet, and will not negatively impact them when it’s time to do taxes.”
Additionally, $40,000 in gift cards was distributed at shelters, resource centers, and NCO offices. These were given out regardless of other financial aid a person might have received. “We knew from previous fires how valuable gift cards to gas stations and grocery stores are, so we prioritized getting those out to people as quickly as possible,” says Bruder. “That gave people a little boost while we worked on processing applications.”
To date, approximately $1.1 million has been raised. Any money not distributed for immediate needs will be earmarked for intermediate and long-term needs. NCO is already working with other agencies and organizations to determine what the needs are, and the collaborative approach will help avoid redundant efforts. One such collaboration between NCO, the Health and Human Services Agency of Mendocino County, and the Ukiah Valley Conference Center is the Redwood Fire Survivor Resource Room, providing free resources and support to anyone impacted by the fires. People can drop in Monday-Thursday from 10-2, or call (707) 621-8817 to make an appointment. People can also call that number to sign up for the free Redwood Fire Survivor Support Group, which will meet for six weeks in January and February in Ukiah.
“Unfortunately, the work is only just beginning,” says Bruder. “It will take years to rebuild, and we hope to support our community throughout that process.”