Rebuilding after the Sonoma County fires to ensure a better future

Amy Marlar embraces her daughter Logyn, 11, as they stand on what used to be the front porch of their Santiago Drive home that was destroyed by the Tubbs Fire, in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, California on Wednesday, December 20, 2017. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)


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How will the fire impact my children in five years? This question is on the top of my mind and probably that of every parent living in the North Bay. My children are ages 3 and 6, and I wonder, “Will our five counties be rebuilt and thriving again by the time they complete grade school?”

We have learned from our friends and leaders who went through Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy that the rebuild process can take up to 10 years.

The work our communities are doing for emergency relief and immediate well-being of our citizens through donating, volunteering and community engagement has been an inspiration. While we must push for expediency and ensure our families are safe and supported – we also must have the long view to build back to even better than when the first ember touched the ground.

For this reason, I have agreed to chair Rebuild North Bay Foundation.

The Rebuild North Bay Foundation is a nonprofit committed to rebuilding our diverse five-county region over the long-term, supporting public and private engagement to create a healthier, more equitable and resilient community through advocacy and investment.

While our five counties ravaged by fire are literally still digging through the ashes, the world and our country have already moved on. The national news, large donors and even congress are not prioritizing the families, children and first responders who critically need support. So, we as a community must band together – go local – and take care of our own.

My goal in joining Rebuild North Bay Foundation is to ensure some years from now, we are continuing to raise money from donors and advocate for federal support owed from FEMA and other sources. (There are still payouts due from FEMA to Katrina victims from 13 years ago.)

I spent 10 years working with United Nations, supporting families in extreme needs due to natural and man-made catastrophes. Problems and their solutions tend to get more complicated as the months pass by from a disaster. If we have a structure in place by the time those deep complications arise, we can band together and obtain the funding, woman power and organization needed to move forward.

We are building the plane while we are flying it, and our objectives, which will be announced in mid-January, will include long-term fundraising for non-profits and community organizations engaging in the rebuild, advocacy for federal and state disaster funds, and finally the joint coordination of public and private organizations working together for a stronger future.

Our first effort will be a communications campaign to educate our local citizens and tourists of the extreme importance of shopping, eating and staying local. Every 100 dollars spent in one of our five counties, will generate $148 back into the local economy and therefore sustain small businesses and keep critical jobs. For the already tough retail months of January through April, we must all #Circulate48.

I know the passion we have for our neighbors burns stronger than any flame. That is why my children and yours will grow up in a community that is more resilient, diverse, inclusive and vibrant than ever before.