Thank you to all in the community who have joined our teams and who are supporting the families affected by the Almeda fire.
At Heart Rising we form teams of 5 or more households who connect, form relationships within their teams, and who are then assigned a family displaced by the fire. Our intent is to have our teams provide support to families long-term, to discover needs on many different levels, and offer material and emotional support. The connections created among the team members and their family is deepening community connections in all directions and important friendships are formed. We know the recovery is not a sprint, but a marathon. As our teams support one to a few families, bonds are formed and understandings develop so that the support can be deep, reliable and as stated, long-term.
With each phase of recovery from the fire, new needs emerge. What was recognized and needed two months ago has transformed into a new set of needs and some are recurrent. Some of today’s needs are as dire as the initial needs following the fire.
Immediately after the fire, quick housing solutions for fire survivors were needed and many were housed in motel rooms by aid organizations. Every time I talked with a family, they were in the dark and did not know if their funding would continue after the end of the month, sometimes just 10 days or less away, or if their funding would end. If it ended they had no idea where they would go. Many were out of work as their businesses had closed due to Covid or because it was destroyed in the fire. With the unknown, anxiety elevated on top of their massive daily stress.
Some motel rooms had cooking facilities, some did not. Sometimes as many as 5-6 people were living in a hotel room who had previously been living out their lives in their 3-bedroom homes. My understanding is that many could lose their housing space on December 31, 2020. There was talk of the state assisting, I do not know as of this writing if that has happened. If not, many could be facing a cold winter living in their cars. We must figure this out.
If you would like to help but are unsure how, please reach out to us. Every action no matter how small is helpful. Some team members take a leadership role and others can help a little and all are needed and important. We will connect you with other volunteers to form a team. Once your team is formed you will meet by phone or Zoom to organize and then reach out to the family that is excited to meet you. Please be assured that with the restraints of meeting in person due to Covid, and the precautions required, all recommended measures are implemented and practiced.
It is up to each team to develop how they want to work together and discover how they can best support their assigned family or families. This does not need to take an immense amount of your time, you can participate at the level that fits with your life.
We have been receiving calls offering furniture and clothing, kitchen items, and beds, and asking if we can pick up these items. We do not have a storage place and are not doing pick up and delivery. I am running my real estate brokerage, the Patie Millen Group, and have some staff organizing teams and connecting them with families. However, we have no facility where we can receive goods.
Your goods are needed and can be posted on our Heart Rising Facebook page. Our individual teams are the ones searching out needed items for their specific families and it is the teams who will coordinate to get those goods to their families. Additionally, the National Merit Society at Ashland High has offered to pick up and deliver, but they must have a destination in place as we do not store goods.
As an exciting update, families that have reached out to Heart Rising are truly forming bonds with their teams. This is the miracle; the way hearts are coming together. One of our teams recently coordinated an outdoor socially-distanced evening for their family with a walk on their ranch, winter fire pit, hot cider was served, and musician neighbors performed to the delight of all. The beauty of this is that these connections would perhaps never have occurred in the past and now they have become important. Another team has arranged for hikes with their family, as these activities are shared, the bonds deepen.
In addition to the crucial needs of clothing, household and cooking items for those with a home, gas cards, winter weather wear and kindness, some of the teams have fundraised to help with larger needs like locating rentals or permanent housing, providing transportation, computers, a heating unit, trade tools. A needed electrician for their RV, a plumber for the leak. The teams have assisted in getting Internet connections set up so the children can do their online schooling. One team member is tutoring the older child in math.
They have assisted in enrolling parents in ESL English as a Second Language courses and in RCC classes to help them realize their goals. Team members have met family members at the distribution centers to help them shop for what is needed. This is a great source of support. The team keeps their eye out for new grants that will be helpful and a huge source of support is working with the family to help them identify their needs. This may sound simple, but those coming through a disaster can be blocked in voicing needs that could uplift and simplify their lives. Many are in a state of overwhelm. This high level of help comes from engagement, getting to know the families, as trust builds more is revealed on a personal level. As intimacy develops, birthdays have been celebrated for family members with the delivery of gifts and cake. Warm meals are delivered with each team member preparing a dish. Scott Bandaroff at Peak Experience and Nando Reynolds have assembled a team of therapists who are generously offering no cost therapy to assist those in need. This has been a major request from the families that have reached out to us.
As our team volunteers get to know their families and talk with them, it opens hearts, identifies their priority needs, the softer emotional needs and from there a plan can be formed. With a plan, anxiety is reduced and with support and friendship lives become easier and more hopeful.
You may contact us individually and we will assign you to a team. Many are now joining as intact teams. They have coordinated on their own with co-workers, church members, social clubs, book clubs, neighbor groups, business networks and contact us saying “I have a team and we are ready to go.” Every time I hear that it gives me chills and I am filled with gratitude. Some teams grow as their friends and family members join their existing team and as they grow in number, they split into two teams.
Please consider joining one of our teams, or please bring your own team. I understand life is busy, if you decide you do not have time to volunteer, please consider that this does not need to take a large amount of your time due to the team model. Our volunteers are offering support in varying degrees based on what works for them in their lives. Not all team members can offer the same degree of assistance. That is why we have a team.
We are currently taking donations for the families through the Thalden Foundation, generously offered by Barry and Kathryn Thalden who have spearheaded many successful projects and efforts in our community. Donations can be marked for Heart Rising and sent to The Thalden Foundation at 550 Ashland Loop Road, Ashland, OR 97520. Some teams have donations earmarked for their family specifically. We are in the process of establishing Heart Rising as a non-profit, until that is complete please send your donations to the Thalden Foundation where it will be tax deductible. If you need your donation picked up, we are happy to do that. The Thalden Foundation has also generously matched the first $10,000 of received donations. Thank you to all who have contributed.
If you know a family in need or would like to volunteer in any capacity, please contact us. As a volunteer or as a family in need you can visit our website at www.HeartRising.Org and click on a button at the bottom of the home page, “Offer Help” or “Request Help” and fill out the questionnaire. This information is confidential and only used to determine how to best place a helper on a team or how to best assist a family in need. A family need not be concerned that their information will be shared with any government organization, it will not.
I am new to this. I have never formed a social assistance organization. I am a Realtor in our Valley and I am figuring this out step by step, day by day. If someone would like to offer their expertise as Heart Rising becomes established, we would be incredibly grateful. I can use administrative and data entry help and use help in responding to the families that reach out to us.
If you have questions or suggestions, comments, want to find out more or offer a kind word 🙂 you can call me on my cell at 541-301-3435 or at my real estate brokerage at The Patie Millen Group at 541-488-0010.