Fire Response Fund Update

No Small Victories Two Years After CZU

Office supplies
Circular saw
Arborist saw
Wood chipper
Steam cleaners
Pressure washers
Sprinkler supplies
Water pipes and tanks

These are just some of the tools and supplies needed to get livelihoods as landscapers and contractors started again after total loss. Or get to the point where Cal Fire will give the okay to get back on property. Or to finally make it through pre-clearance to obtain permits. Or to fix the water line between the road and properties after it was damaged during debris removal. Or in the very best cases, to start rebuilding houses. There are also staffing costs for case managers; event costs for survivor resource fairs and Q&A forums; and trauma counseling costs for struggling students and faculty in Bonny Doon and Davenport.

Two years after the CZU fires, alongside our nonprofit partners, we continue to support the slow, complex, frustrating, painstaking, and often heartbreaking work of restoring property, rebuilding lives, and healing a community.

None of this would be possible without you–thousands of generous people, families, and businesses that gave to the Fire Recovery Fund. Thanks to you, we’ve awarded over $2 million in grants since August 2020 and many more rebuilding costs are being covered every month now that more permits are being sought.

Meeting Unmet Needs the Best We Can

Initial fire recovery grants focused on emergency services and helping cover basic immediate needs. As time passes, our work evolves. Now, through our work with the Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG)–a collaboration of non-profit, faith-based, local, state, and national organizations–we’re helping fund “unmet needs” of fire survivors. With our fellow funder Valley Churches United (VCU), we’re supporting case managers at Catholic Charities Diocese of Monterey (CCDOM), Mountain Community Resources, and Davenport Resource Service Center to make grants to folks who were uninsured or underinsured, whose FEMA payout didn’t cover enough, or who are trying to pay back loans and debt. Susan True, CEO of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, said that “Fire survivors working to rebuild or relocate have many obstacles in their path to recovery. The Fire Fund gives people practical support to move through those hurdles and get closer to the finish line.”

Every Win is a Big Win

“We’re working in a circle of gratitude here,” shared Lynn Robinson, Executive Director of VCU. “We are so grateful for the generosity of the community and our clients are so grateful for the support.” But she says, the gratitude is entwined with heartbreak. “We just can’t fix everything and that is so, so hard.”

Through supporting fire survivors, Aretha Rodriguez, Program Manager at CCDOM has learned that it’s very difficult to explain how people’s lives are transformed after disaster–the stress, the grieving, the impossible decisions they have to make over and over again. “It’s very heavy work for everyone. The strength of my clients keeps me going and every win, even the smallest, feels like a hard-earned victory.”

That’s why she so clearly remembers her commute to work a few weeks ago. Aretha lives in the San Lorenzo Valley and the CCDOM offices are in Santa Cruz. One morning, she was driving down Highway 9 and the traffic backed up. “There was a huge semi-truck and with a sign that said ‘oversized load’ and I knew it was a manufactured home being delivered.” She says she started laughing, crying, waving, and beeping her horn all at the same time. “That was a good day.”

Donors to the Fire Fund have made gifts that helped since the first day of the evacuations and the gifts will continue helping well past the two-year anniversary.

See the impact of your giving to the Fire Recovery Fund

Fire Recovery Fund Grants