September 9, 2021 will be one year since a firestorm ripped through our lovely hamlets of north Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and south Medford, destroying over 3,000 homes, taking three lives and leaving many homeless in the middle of a pandemic. Residents inside and outside the fire zone watched in shock and horror, as firefighters fought the flames and worked with law enforcement to evacuate people just in the nick of time. Neighbors ran from home to home yelling “get out!” Heroes were suddenly everywhere, providing food, temporary shelter, water, comfort and counseling. And it has been that way ever since.
We could have let this fire–this disaster—destroy us, but we are a resilient population here in the Rogue Valley. We band together, to heal, to rebuild, to work for restoration. School teachers, therapists, business owners, people out of work from the pandemic, medical staff, students, teens, and even children joined the restoration effort.
It was at that time that Patie Millen put together Heart Rising, with the help of Shields Bialasik, Julie Wiley, the Thalden Foundation, and a group of the most courageous, dedicated volunteers any organization could hope for. They formed teams and immediately got about the work of adopting families for the long-term, as quickly as they could. Teams of four, five and six or more—adopted individuals, couples and mainly families, some with five or more members—helping them attain every possible resource. including temporary housing, vehicles, transportation, clothing, household goods and supplies, summer camp for children, jobs, employment, therapists, tutoring, gas vouchers, and the list goes on and on. We were so pleased we were able to get to know and help many Spanish-speaking families who lost homes in Talent-Phoenix and provide bilingual services as well. The connections made have been enduring heart connections.
I joined Heart Rising to assist with the administration and to co-direct as it began to grow. As much progress as we have made, we are also at a turning point. After a year, we will need to replenish our resources in order to help more families in the coming year. We have been hugely successful due to the generous teams and donations from our community as well as from their friends and families across the nation. We were able to help many families, and provide goods, resources and referrals for another 100+ community members needing assistance
The reality is, as effective as our efforts have been, a year has passed, and we still have hundreds of families residing in hotels, housing that has yet to be built, families working to receive benefits, and a lot of rebuilding still to be done. Although there has been a Jackson County Community Long-Term Recovery Group formed, (you can Google or go to the JCCLTRG.org website, it is loaded with information), it will still be many, many more months before families will receive aid.
You can help. Consider making a donation to Heart Rising to keep our work going until the end of the year and beyond. You can do this by visiting HeartRising.org or by mailing a donation to Heart Rising, c/o The Thalden Foundation, 550 Ashland Loop Road, Ashland, OR 97520.
Thank you to everyone for your generous hearts.
Co-Director Heart Rising