Note: This post was originally published on the CWS blog.
The residents of southern California are accustomed to wildfires during the summer. But this summer was different. The fires were more intense.
A record-setting heat wave, coupled with moderate winds, sparked brush fires across southern California that destroyed homes and forced thousands to evacuate.
Not knowing whether their homes would still be standing, hundreds of residents fled the West Willows community near Alpine in late July hoping they would be able to once again return home.
“My husband is in a wheelchair, so I had to move quickly to get us out of the house. I just grabbed a few things I couldn’t replace, like a couple of photograph and our cats, and we quickly left the house,” said a long-time resident of Alpine who asked to remain anonymous.
“It was just devastating. I saw the embers flying through the air and landing on the rooftops of the homes and I knew there wasn’t much the firefighters would be able to do,” said Stephanie Sorrels. “But I knew there was something that I could do to help people following the fires.”
Stephanie gathered several friends and other volunteers in her community to open the West Fire Victim Supply Post at the Boulder Oaks Elementary School. After a few announcements on the radio, donations came pouring in from around the area.
Church World Service provided CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets, CWS Hygiene Kits and CWS Blankets to the Supply Post to help provide a little comfort to people in a time of need.
“Some people didn’t lose their homes, but they knew they were going have to do a lot of clean up from either smoke or water damage. Knowing they had this cleanup bucket was a huge relief. It was one less thing they had to worry about when they returned to clean up their house,” said Jason Welle, CWS Community and Congregational Engagement Specialist in Los Angeles.
“When they look inside the bucket they are just excited, they are like ‘oh my gosh this is really awesome.’ They were just so thankful. Every person who took a bucket, wanted me to tell you ‘thank you,’” said Stephanie. She continued by saying, “And I would want to give them [the donors] a hug.”
These relief efforts are only possible because of our dedicated congregations and donors who assemble CWS Kits and provide CWS Blankets. Each year Church World Service provides thousands of CWS Kits and Blankets to organizations here in the US and around the world. These kits and blankets are a tangible reminder that no matter what challenges people may be facing, they aren’t facing them alone.
“One of the community members here told us that those of you willing to put these kits together are our heroes,” said Jason.
Thank you for being a hero and providing these CWS Kits and Blankets.