Thousands who lost homes, jobs or wages during October’s wildfires will soon get a second wave of money from the North Bay Fire Relief fund, which has raised $24 million so far.
Checks started going out this weekend to individuals who previously applied for and received aid through the fund after their homes and workplaces were impacted, said Robin McKenzie, senior vice president at Redwood Credit Union, which partnered with state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and The Press Democrat for the effort.
“We hope the additional funds for those who lost homes and jobs will further help those who have lost so much and remind them their community cares and people near and far are thinking of them,” McKenzie said.
Of the $24 million raised, she said, two-thirds have come from outside the four impacted counties — Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake. More than 32,000 individuals, organizations and businesses contributed to the fund, which continues to bring in donations from across the nation and overseas. Donations have come from 21 countries, including Australia, France and Germany, McKenzie said.
More than $19.6 million, or about 80 percent of the fund, has been committed to help fire victims, including 6,200 people who lost homes, jobs and wages, McKenzie said.
More than 100 first responders and 2,200 local primary, secondary and college students have been assisted by the fund, according to Redwood Credit Union.
And the number of people supported by the fund is expected to grow, McKenzie said. While the deadline for submitting applications closed in Mendocino, Lake and parts of Sonoma County, McKenzie said many forms are still being processed after being turned in last week.
Sonoma Valley residents have until Dec. 15 to apply through La Luz Center, while Napa residents have until Dec. 8 to apply through the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership.
Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat, said fund officials will continue to assess the community’s needs and work with nonprofits as donations roll in during the holidays.
The fund has teamed up with about a dozen nonprofits providing immediate aid to fire victims, including medical and dental care services, McKenzie said. The philanthropic effort includes support from emergency and relief agencies, including Cal Fire, the state Office of Emergency Services, local and state officials, nonprofits and community leaders. It also will help replace equipment for athletes from Piner High School and the Rincon Valley Little League, McKenzie added.
The credit union is covering all administrative costs to ensure 100 percent of the donations raised go to supporting fire victims in the four counties.
“We will continue to monitor and respond to needs of nonprofits through the holidays. Chances are the food banks will need more support, among others,” Falk said. “When all is said and done, the funds will go directly to those individuals and families who lost homes or suffered economic hardship, including those who have already applied and received funds previously.”
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here