Benefield: Santa Rosa Cycling Club's generosity returned in wake of Tubbs fire destruction
When Santa Rosa Cycling Club ride director Bridgette DeShields went to the club’s shop and warehouse on Coffey Lane on Oct. 9, there was nothing left.
The Tubbs fire had ripped through the property the group has been leasing from a homeowner for nearly 10 years. The club’s uninsured losses are currently tallied at upwards of $150,000.
Gone were the cargo trailers and canopies, tables and cooking gear. Gone was everything that the 1,000-member nonprofit club used to put on the massively successful Wine Country Century, the epically grueling Terrible Two and the gear that for years has been loaned to other groups that use cycling as a way to do good in the world.
What was not gone was the goodwill the club has earned over the years from other cycling clubs and nonprofit groups that have benefited from the SRCC’s largesse.
Phones started ringing. Offers were made. “What can we do?” was asked more than once.
“They have been a friend and ally in this, so when their need came up it was logical to find out how to raise some money to help them get back on their feet,” said Doug Johnson, a Santa Rosa Rotary Club member who for four years had chaired Rotary’s Giro Bello committee.
That eight-year-old bike ride and fundraiser now draws 900 cyclists every June and nets about $70,000 for Rotary’s charitable giving.
The 2018 ride will focus on wildfire victims, but Rotary jumped the gun a little bit and cut a check for $20,000 to the SRCC to help the club replace some of its lost gear.
“Every June, they have loaned us all of the equipment that we need to run a cycling event,” Johnson said, adding with a chuckle that to help SRCC was really “self serving” because Rotarians will come knocking come spring for the SRCC’s help.
And SRCC members will give it. They always do.
Johnson said the wildfires have helped pull back the curtain on how so many charitable groups work in Sonoma County - they help each other.
When people sign up for the Giro Bello to support Rotary’s efforts, Santa Rosa Cycling Club is on board, too. When people ride the Tour de Fuzz to support Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Service in Sonoma County, SRCC is backing them. Levi’s GranFondo, which puts a spotlight on at-risk youth? SRCC chips in.
As the community came up for air and checked on loved ones after the fires, they checked on the cycling club, too.
“I have gotten so many phone calls from people saying, ‘What can we do?’” said Doug Simon, coordinator of the Wine Country Century and chairman of the club’s warehouse committee.
So crucial to the club’s operation was this space that yes, there is a committee dedicated to its operations and maintenance.
The outpouring made sense. It warmed hearts.
“It’s just because we have been so supportive of them. We have helped a lot of organizations, no questions asked,” Simon said. “It’s nice to be part of that community. It’s reciprocal.”
When the Davis Cycling Club hosted their annual money-raiser - Foxy’s Fall Century - on Oct. 21, they had to dramatically change the route to avoid burned sections in Napa County. But still riders came, including some from Santa Rosa.
“It was therapy for us and the riders,” said Davis Bike Club president Phil Coleman. “We had refugees from Santa Rosa saying, ‘I’m out of my house, but I love to cycle.’”
“It was an atypically larger sign-up, particularly given the circumstances. People were literally crawling out of the ashes,” Coleman said. “They seemed to rally around this event, which we have had for close to half of a century. It was a diversion.”
It was also a heck of a fundraiser.
So when the ride committee leaders came to Coleman with a plan, he was floored.
“They settled on $20,000,” he said. Half that amount went directly to SRCC, the other half to additional fire relief.
Surely, someone among the club’s 550 or so members would balk - why not keep the money in Davis? Why another cycling club?
“The membership rose up and said, ‘Hurray, this is fantastic,’” Coleman said. “I didn’t have a single grump in the club, which is unprecedented in the Davis Bike Club. Not a Grinch.”
Coleman, who was a captain in the Oakland Police Department when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit in 1989, said the worst disasters can bring out the best in people.
“In the face of mass tragedy, humans rise to a new level,” he said. “This is some evidence of that.”
Marin Cyclists reached out, too. The group had bikes it wanted some help with distributing to fire victims. A week later, they called again. Not only did they have bikes, their membership took a collection and they had a check for the Santa Rosa club.