When the call went out to help the thousands of people who have lost their homes to wildfires in the past week, Central Valley residents responded in force.
A number of organizations have been collecting donations for fire evacuees, including the Turlock Journal, Denair and Hilmar schools and the Two-O-Nine Car Club.
Denair Middle and High schools have been collecting donations of food, clothing, blankets, toiletries, diapers and pet food all week. By mid-day Friday, donations were overflowing from the middle school library into the hallway outside Principal Travis Manley’s office. At the high school, cartons of water, boxes of food, piles of blankets and other items were stacked high in a vacant room across from Principal Alecia Myers’ office. The schools also collected almost 70 100-pound bales of hay for hungry horses.
“The community has been great,” Manley said. “We’ve had people from Oakdale who graduated from Denair who saw what we were doing on the news and brought items to donate."
Manley expected more than a dozen trucks and other vehicles to be needed when loading began. He said some of the goods will be dropped off at a Red Cross relief station or Resource Connection in San Andreas. The three tons of hay and pet food will be driven via trailer to the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angels Camp, where many horses, dogs and cats are being kept.
Denair Superintendent Aaron Rosander said he was moved by the response on behalf of fire victims.
“It is a clear message of hope and help,” he said. “It’s inspiring. I couldn’t be more proud of our students and community.”
At the Journal office, it was nothing short of a miracle. In a matter for four days, the community of Turlock filled up the downtown office's back warehouse twice. There were piles of non-perishable food items in all of the Journal's hallways, and every open space contained bags of clothes, blankets and mountains of bottled water.
Many organizations and businesses contributed including the Turlock Senior Club, Turlock Quilt Guild, Cost Less, Turlock Lions Club, Woods Furniture, Kiwanis Club and Valley Air Conditioning. Along with organizations, dozens of local families brought in car loads of supplies.
From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, the Turlock Journal team loaded two U-Haul trucks, donated by Sew Creative; one gated flat-bed truck, donated by the Manteca Bulletin; and two pickup trucks, donated by the Turlock Lions Club. All the supplies were taken to the San Joaquin Fairgrounds where volunteer staff helped unload and prepared for another large haul to be brought today. Three more U-Hauls will leave the Journal office today, heading for the fairgrounds.
Volunteers at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds will continue to take donations for fire victims from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and then distribute them to evacuee centers in areas around both the Valley Fire in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties and the Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties.
More volunteers are needed from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. Just show up and ask to help as unloaders, traffic guides, sorters and loaders.
The donations will go to help evacuees of the fires that continue to burn across Northern California.
As of Friday at 8 p.m., 585 homes were destroyed along with hundreds of other structures in the Valley Fire in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties. Three people died in the fire and four firefighters were injured. The Valley Fire had burned 73,700 acres and was 45 percent contained Friday night.
The Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties has destroyed 503 homes and 330 outbuildings, with 47 structures damaged. There were two people killed in the fire. The Butte Fire has burned 70,760 acres as of 7:15 p.m. Friday, and was 63 percent contained.