How Do You Truly Help Those In Need? California Wildfires

Real Estate Agent with Exit Realty United

California Wildfire from CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE PICTURES - NEIGHBORHOOD IN FEAR When I used to think of Wildfires I used to think of acres of dry grasslands and forest being burned to the ground.  I never used to associate it with Homes and Families.

Then the 2003 Wildfires changed that for me.  It was the first fire that affected someone I knew personally, a home that I had visited and enjoyed or so I thought.
"Oh, Toni don't you remember such and such, we visited them back in '96, They lost their home and some horses".

My friend went on and on about how many people we knew that had been affected over the years. 
That was an Uh-oh moment for me...  Wildfires were no longer solely about trees, vegetation and wildlife for me.  My thinking was forever changed. 


My next thought back in 2003 was what I could do to help.  I then decided to help another long time friend (whose name I won't mention, til I clear it with her) and she in turn was able to help three other families, she had the space in her home and her heart.  One family stayed on until their house was rebuilt, (they have had to run from the wildfires again.) 

I think of Kathy & Corina McGraw and their family.  I have never met them in person, but I formed a spiritual bond with them here on AR.  I lived those moments when Kathy couldn't contact Corina with her.  Stopping constantly during my day and Thanking God for keeping them safe and asking him to open the lines so that Kathy could have her faith confirmed by Corina herself.  See these wildfires were no longer a news event for me.  I was now worried about Kathy, Corina and the kids and many others in my extended family. Being here on the East coast feeling so helpless but empowered in my prayers and faith. 

After Katrina, I also had a total .change of perspective on Charities.  I already knew that it worked to help someone with the will and capability of helping others.  So I knew that would serve those in need better.  OK Red Cross, United Way?  Nah! I thought back to long ago at the age of nine when we lost our home and how little support we received from the Red Cross.  Things hadn't really changed in all these years had they? 
We always wonder when we donate if our dollars will reach those in need.  Katrina proved to me that they usually don't, save for a few very hardworking charities filled with volunteers whose salaries are not a part of my donation. 

When these recent Wildfires came about our church collected funds and we sought a resource to donate our efforts to.  Sadly, the two charities that were being mentioned were the last choices on our list.  So our church found a group that asked us to not send money but specific items that were needed by families.  Our wonderful committee made it happen, we had the shipping fees donated, what a blessing! (dang it I don't have the name of the Charity here with me)

When looking to make a difference for those in need.  (I refuse to call them victims, but Victors, for they are still here) take a little time. 

  • Try choosing a specific community or area to support
  • Identify a need and help fill it
  • Look to Grassroots organizations, churches and synagogues that know the people in their community and have identified specific needs.
  • Offer your support, no donation is too little.
  • Ask!  Some people are too proud or overwhelmed to ask for help, but will accept it when offered.

A lot of people doing a little will go very far.  $1 from a million people is 1 million dollars.  Just try and make sure it is truly going to help someone. 

I am not blasting the Big Charities, they serve their purpose.  I don't want emails from them please!
But when we were burned out of our home when I was a little girl, the Red Cross put us in a hotel for the first two nights.  It was great having shelter but I would've jumped for joy to have a toothbrush when I woke up that morning.  My panties hadn't dried yet from washing them late that night and I cried.  I had no books, no clothes save the nightie I had on when I ran out and slippers.  My mother had to leave me in the hotel room to go buy me and my brother some clothes and pick up necessities.  My brother went to get us something to eat and they wouldn't let him back up to the room.  So I was homeless, half naked and hungry (he had the food). 

God sent us Angels during those times, not the many people that my Mom had helped over the years.  We always had extra seats at our dinner table, or she was sending one of us to give someone something.  The help we received was from wonderful strangers, that made some of those times the most vivid memories of my childhood.  I'll never forget the lady at the clothing store (Ms Anna) who picked up the phone and asked her boss if she could donate some clothing for a family (she had overheard a conversation that my Mom was having with another customer) or the bus driver (Mr William) who used to wait for me to cross the street to catch the City Bus if I was running late as I had to travel 7 miles on the city bus to school every day at the age of nine for about four months. (The looks of the other passengers on their way to work, priceless).  Nothing you do to help others is too small.

If you know of anyone who is doing the real work in these communities, the ANGELS, Please BLOG ABOUT THEM!  We won't hear about them on the news, but we know that the real help comes from average folks doing extraordinary things, not from the huge charities.  How can we help them if we don't know they exist?

If you know someone who is housing families, (there are some who have two or three families sharing their homes) Drop them off a care package.  Fill up the gas tank of someone who is donating the use of their pickup to help others salvage the ruins of their homes. 

Most importantly, if you are able donate your time.


Comments (12)

Scott Slocum
Florida Future Realty Inc. - Cape Coral, FL
Scott Slocum & Associates 239-222-4800, Cape Coral
Red Cross is a great organization for immediate response however they are not set up for long term care... try your local united way... they usually have access to multiple 501c(3) related organizations to help people
Nov 04, 2007 01:00 AM
Charlie Ragonesi - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros
I contribute to red cross. It is cool to read a blog from a young aldy from Ozone park talking about wilerness fires. Where I live now, as youknow I am a transplanted new yorker, is inthe mountains and you become really attuned to fire safety when it is dry
Nov 04, 2007 01:16 AM
Elaine Hanson
Coldwell Banker Realty - Malibu | Topanga - Malibu, CA
REALTOR - Topanga, CA Real Estate Agent
We were under voluntary evacuation orders last week, for the Malibu fire was headed toward us.  Not the first time.  Thank God the wind was blowing against our fire.  It is wonderful to me that caring people, like you, across the country really cared about how we were.  We do have many "angels" working hard right now here in California.  My Topanga home is fine.   My heart goes out to those that lost their homes in all the other areas. 
Nov 04, 2007 02:38 AM
Tina Maraj
RE/MAX One - Fullerton, CA
Celebrating 30 Years of Real Estate Sales
Great point Sharon. I live in Orange County California. I am very lucky not to have been effected by the fire in the sense of my home being in danger. The Santiago Canyon fire was pretty close. It was a very depressing week and the only thing that could make me feel better was to reach out to those who had been evacuated and lost their homes.  
Nov 04, 2007 02:45 AM
Kathy McGraw
CELLing Realty - White Water, CA
Riverside County CA Real Estate

Toni B.-  You have said this quite well.....things we see on TV don't have the same impact as when we know the people involved.  Thank You for the caring you gave, and thank you for the continued emotional support you gave me when I didn't know what was happening with my daughter, Corina.....

I used to live in Malibu, and remember how mad my mother was at the Red Cross....they collect a lot of money, but most of it wasn't for us (fire evacuees).....and last year I learned from the Esperanza Fire that it was a law that money collected for families couldn't go to them (that was changed by our Governor, and the President signed legislation changing it ). Your ideas are PERFECT......

Find  local organizations, and ask them what their needs are......make sure donations really go to those that need them the most. Even for this Holiday Season when Americans give in abundance, try the local Organizations.......

Toni, thank you also  for sharing your own experiences....It is from those that have experienced hardships that the lessons are the most powerful.....

Nov 04, 2007 02:56 AM
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

Unfortunate that some may use the money for other than what is intended but they do. This is great info and tips for those who do want to help the people in need. All these few friends.

Nov 04, 2007 04:26 AM
Sharon "Toni" Brown
Exit Realty United - South Ozone Park, NY
South Ozone Park - New York City Real Estate

Wow Folks my sincere apologies for taking so long to get back, I've been working from a satellite location on a ssssllllloooooowwwwww PC.  The issues......

Anyhoo I will be taking time to visit and reciprocate and promise to then come back and answer you all on my blog.

Nov 07, 2007 04:28 AM
Charlottesville, VA

You are right about being able to give time. Even if it is a local charity.

So where have you been my friend? I have missed seeing you here.... Charles

Nov 07, 2007 10:29 PM
Sharon "Toni" Brown
Exit Realty United - South Ozone Park, NY
South Ozone Park - New York City Real Estate

Yes Charles, and as my time is so limited I am sticking to my commitments to volunteering with weary gratification.  Always glad that I spent it helping others.  I swear i get more out of it than those we help.

I've been busy my friend.  It's been more traveling and one funeral after another.  I am prayerful and thankful each morning the sun hits my face.  Missing the Rain, my new family here and having serious blog withdrawals.

I'll get around to answering on my blog eventually.  while I'm here let me peek on my sub list for a moment.  see you soon as I am sure you're the last posted on my sub list.

Nov 08, 2007 12:51 PM
Mike and Dawn Lewis
The Lewis Team at Keller Williams - San Diego, CA
The Lewis Team at Keller Williams in San Diego CA


Great post. We had fire victims stay at our home for almost a week. The fires also got close to our house so we went to one of my friends home out of the fire zone. The fire victims came with us to my friends house. We all have a great sense of humor in our group and called my friend who had to evacuate twice a double evacuee. San Diego pulls together - that's what we're about. My brother lives in Manhattan and lived there during 9-11 "he took a picture of the WTC as it was dropping from his condo window" - New Yorkers come together too. It's all about helping on another. It's nice to see you reaching out - you have a great big heart.

Mike Lewis

Nov 17, 2007 03:47 AM
Judy Tuscano
Prudential Verani Realty - Nottingham, NH
NH Real Estate Professional
Toni, I can see that you are on a path to make a difference in people's lives by volunteering. This post is full of good suggestions for people to give back in thier communities and to those hit by disasters. I love to give to local churches as they seem to be able to get things accomplished one family at a time. I heard that when Katrina hit NO that it was the churches that were on the job right away helping families get reestablished.
Dec 05, 2007 01:17 PM
"Tommy" Decebal
HomeSpector Inc. 516-851-5833 - Farmingdale, NY
Adamescu Long Island NY MASTER Home Inspector

Wish you a Merry Christmas and best wishes for a great year in 2008.

Tommy   New York Certified Home Inspector Long Island NY Nassau/Suffolk Home Inspections

Dec 21, 2007 05:13 PM