It can be difficult to reflect on a year of recovery efforts from the Redwood Complex Fire when skies have been heavy with smoke from the current Mendocino Complex Fire. I didn't think we would be here so soon. I can only be grateful that the Community Foundation had the foresight to create the Disaster Fund before the October 2017 fires struck and took a leadership role in Mendocino-Rebuilding Our Community (M-ROC) for the long-term recovery efforts. The strength of this group, bolstered by the financial contributions of our donors near and far, has made the work of the past year possible, and the work in the years to come more manageable.
We recently convened our Mendocino-ROC collaborators to reflect on the successes, lessons, and gaps of the long-term recovery efforts over the past year. We could easily get hung up on the details of a single challenge, a single family's need, or a single financial gap. But when we bring together the full picture, it is certainly a year of work worth celebrating.
We began in the early days with relief efforts that focused on short-term needs during and following the evacuation of over 7,500 people from Redwood and Potter Valleys. From gas and groceries to motel stays, diapers and holiday baskets, as well as limited general assistance of $1,000 per family whose homes were lost in the blaze, we distributed over $290,000 to help those in immediate need.
This is when the real work began - the long, seemingly slow efforts of identifying individual recovery needs and the best ways to support our neighbors in getting back on their feet. Our committees have been commendably focused on providing long-term housing solutions to the most vulnerable populations who have few other options, while trying to create opportunities to help all fire survivors in some way to remove a barrier to recovery. The families who lost homes in the fire are incredibly diverse in family makeup, type of home or property, degrees of ownership and official permitting, income and assets, citizenship and cultural background. We leaned upon our case managers to give us the big picture only to discover there isn't a single narrative to describe this unique agrarian community, but rather an eclectic collage of histories and dreams that comprise the rural beauty of the valleys.
We succeeded in honing our recovery efforts into a series of tiered grant opportunities to support a broad range of fire survivors in some way, while focusing the largest grants on returning vulnerable families to long-term housing. Our most successful has been the Critical Needs Grant Program which removes a barrier to stable housing or replaces the ability to return to work. At the time of this writing, we have distributed $234,326 in Critical Needs grants to over 120 households. We have also partnered with other community funding sources to be able to offer $111,559 in immediate housing assistance including rental deposits and mortgage payments to over 50 families. A Kids Activity Fund has helped children affected by the fire pay for art supplies, musical instruments, sports equipment, camp, and other activities, with a Senior Respite Fund giving seniors much needed help with yard work, house cleaning, counseling, and self-care. Together these funds have paid out more than $20,000 and helped 47 children and 12 seniors on their own path to recovery.
As stewards of the Disaster Fund, we have balanced a need to provide immediate relief as well as recovery support while retaining the bulk of our funding for rebuilding. It is an unfortunate fact that so many of those that lost homes were underinsured and uninsured. If we cannot help our neighbors rebuild and return home, we will lose them to other communities, or worse see an increase in our local homeless population. Families continue to live doubled or tripled up, in trailers and campgrounds, in hotels or on sofas while they strive to find a way back home. For those living in trailers on their scorched properties or making those first steps towards rebuilding, we have offered Utility Restoration and Septic Inspection grants, disbursing a combined $186,792 between the two to over 78 families. For those struggling to close the gap in funding to purchase a home or rebuild their own, we have launched the Mendocino-ROC Housing Assistance Program with a total of $438,341 grants to date. These large housing grants have the greatest opportunity to make an impact to help a family get back home.
Of the $2.5M received from over 2,600 donors, we have approximately $1.75M remaining to help the communities of Redwood Valley and Potter Valley rebuild. Our ability to make this impact so far is aided by strategic matching dollars from local collaborators to extend the work the Disaster Fund can accomplish. Anecdotal estimates put the cost of rebuilding in the neighborhood of $8-10M, so while we may run shy we can at least help one family at a time put a roof over its head where the parents can tuck their children in at night knowing they are safely home once more.