With an estimated 20,000 people evacuated and at least 23 dead after the North Bay wildfires, surrounding counties are in need of shelter, food and counseling as they grapple with the loss of housing and lives.
To provide support for these counties, students and Berkeley community members can provide support to those affected by the fires through donations and volunteer work in the area.
Provide rooms and shelter for victims
Various individuals in the Bay Area have already offered their homes to victims of the fires. Airbnb has also begun an Open Homes program, in which hosts are opening their homes for free from Oct. 8-30 for displaced people and relief workers.
Donate to provide relief supplies
Jake Kloberdanz, a UC Berkeley alumnus, started a GoFundMe called the Napa and Sonoma County Fire Relief. He emphasized the importance of making an impact in the community.
“I woke up that morning and went online to see what we could do to volunteer,” Kloberdanz said. “At that time there was little information, so I initially started this (GoFundMe) to give friends and my independent community an opportunity to make an impact.”
Petaluma City Councilmember Dave King said students can donate to the Red Cross, which will help distribute disaster relief aid.
Volunteer at shelters and evacuation centers
College students with limited incomes, Kloberdanz said, should take advantage of the time they have and volunteer. He added that many shelters for animals and displaced individuals are in need of volunteers.
“Sometimes people giving their time and their mind-share ends up being more valuable than giving money,” Kloberdanz said.
Elece Hempel, executive director of Petaluma People Services Center said the emotional impact of the fires on the community will increase the need for support from surrounding communities and students.
“Anyone studying psychology or working on an advanced degree … be in contact with organizations,” Hempel said. “We’ll see some horrific things from the fire.”
Hempel also encouraged students to get engaged in programs such as Meals on Wheels. According to King, the impact of the fire will continue for many more months, as it is uncertain how long the evacuation period will last.
“Right now, it’s getting people a place to stay, shelter, clothing, pets squared away and looked after,” King said.