by Megan Barber Allende
CEO, Community Foundation of Mendocino County
There have been many tears since the firestorm ravaged the hills of our beloved valleys, but just a few short weeks ago we were finally witness to tears of joy. As an M-ROC case manager held the phone, her own eyes filled as the survivor on the other end of the line paused to weep. He just received news that his home will be rebuilt with the support of the Disaster Fund for Mendocino County.
His three-generational family was displaced when the home he lovingly saved years to purchase was lost on the night of October 8th. In the eight months since, his entire family has been living in the cramped quarters of a generous friend. With the news that a new home will begin construction soon, he and his family can look forward to the possibility of being returned to their own property before the end of the year. These tears are welcome ones.
The Community Foundation of Mendocino County has been incredibly honored to be working at the heart of recovery efforts in supporting families to get back on their feet and work towards long-term recovery. These efforts have been made possible by all of the generous donations received into our Disaster Fund.
Our mission is to rehouse as many families as possible in the long-term, while addressing their short-term needs. Currently, this is being done through a two-tiered process. First, there are the Critical Needs Grants that have allowed nearly 50 households to have utilities restored to their properties, heating returned, transportation repaired, and tools acquired to rebuild and return to work. These grants have removed barriers to recovery and offered the helping hand many needed to take that next step in their own recovery process.
The second-tier of support we are able to provide through the generosity of the Disaster Fund is the rebuilding of homes. In partnership with Hope Crisis Response Network (aka "Hope City"), we can harness the money-saving labor of volunteers and maximize it with Disaster Fund grants to have homes rebuilt for families for considerably less than if they were to do this themselves. Hope Crisis Response Network is offering all of the labor and charging only the cost of materials. The goal is for these two- and three-bedroom homes to break ground this summer to begin rehousing displaced families before the end of the year.
The case management team, working directly with survivors, have been evaluating the rebuild criteria to identify families that would be suitable for a Hope Crisis Response Network home. The team brought forth the first handful of cases to our most recent Unmet Needs committee meetings, who requested and received a total of $180,000 from the Disaster Fund to build seven homes for ten families. In collaboration with the Mendocino Construction Corp program, comprised of high school students learning critical construction skills, the first foundations are set to be poured in June.
As chair of the long-term recovery team, the goal of the Community Foundation is to harness the talents of local partners to maximize our available disaster funds and rebuild a community side by side. By bringing the skills of the Mendocino Construction Corp and Hope Crisis Response Network together, in unison with volunteer labor and Disaster Fund dollars, we are establishing a sustainable recovery plan to help rehouse as many families as possible.
It has been eight months since the firestorm ravaged the hills of our beloved valleys, burning 36,523 acres and displacing more than 380 families who lost their homes. The charred landscape has been reborn in a fresco of greenery and flowers, nourished by spring rains. The old adage, "When it rains, it pours" was true of the flood of donations we received immediately following the fires. With $2.4M in the Disaster Fund plus another $550,000 raised by the Community Foundation from grants, it has been such an immense honor for us to support families in their personal recovery efforts as we work to rebuild our community.
Volunteer opportunities are available for local residents to assist with the Hope City building effort. To learn more, contact Rose Bell, M-ROC Project Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org. Fire recovery is a long-term effort, and the Disaster Fund for Mendocino County is still accepting donations for Redwood Complex Fire relief. Visit www.communityfound.org.