The North Bay Love Fire Benefit at The Barlow in Sebastopol on Thursday, Oct. 12 featured a number of local musicians, artist and creative spirits who came together to help those affected by the North Bay wildfires.
It was put together by a number of local organizations such as The Farmers Guild, the North Bay Organizing Project, Daily Acts, the School Box Project, the Arlene Francis Center, Sebastopol Grange, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and Conservation Action, to establish a Fire Recovery Fund.
The goal of the Fire Recovery Fund is to channel the organization's collective resources to help families and individuals recover from damages they may have suffered by the North Bay wildfires not covered by insurance or traditional relief services.
“I showed up to three different evacuation centers on Monday and was turned away because there were too many volunteers,” said Evan Wiig Community Alliance with Family Farmers Director of Membership and Communications. “It was just this feeling of helplessness and knowing that something needed to be done. I started getting calls from everyone I knew asking ‘what can I do, do you know anyway to volunteer’ and I just didn’t have anything for them to do.”
From there he realized that this was going to be a long way to recovery and that those who didn’t have insurance are going to need financial support once the fire is contained. “I work in agriculture representing family farms around the state and one of biggest thoughts that came to me was ‘there are going to be so many farm workers out of the job,’ and you know, that's not covered by insurance.” Wiig said. “People’s livelihoods, people’s homes, people who’ve rented and I think about people who came here to harvest and suddenly everything they’ve expected and their wages could be gone.”
As the smoke clears and people start counting their losses, Wiig knows more community needs will become apparent. “We’re going to start seeing where the gaps are where people and needs are falling through the cracks,” he said. “We’re in a housing crisis right now and geez, what’s going to happen now.”
Those in attendance included Sebastopol resident Lindsey Whited, 35, who was ready to act in strive of fire victims. “This was something local that I would tap into and feel the need.”
Whited is also a part of the Bodyworker and Practitioner for Sonoma County Shelter on Facebook, a group of healers who organize shifts at evacuation centers to provide acupuncture, massage, holistic healing and in Whited’s case sound therapy.
Other attendees included Santa Rosa Resident Audra Cauchon, who moved to Sonoma County from Detroit nearly six years ago and now considers the North Bay her home. She currently lives in west Santa Rosa near Coffee Park and decided to attend the North Bay Love Fire Benefit because her house has no power.
“One thing that I’m really impressed by is that, much like my hometown of Detroit, when the community comes together it’s strong,” Cauchon said. “Some people are fully displaced, God bless them, with homes lost. At lot of us are also partially displaced but are definitely not complaining. I have a lot of gratitude to still have a home standing but don’t have any utilities. I can’t cook or invite people to stay and provide shelter because I can’t cook or provide a hot shower for them.”