Danielson: Stories of need and giving in the Santiam Canyon
As a member of the Forest Grove Daybreak Rotary Club, I felt it would be helpful to put a face on the Santiam Canyon Recovery Project we are involved with. Here are some stories from my volunteering there on Dec. 31.
I drove to Sublimity, Oregon, to assist those who had lost homes and belongings in the wildfires that spread through the Santiam Canyon region in September. I had two purposes. One was to deliver over $1,700 in donated items from the Forest Grove ACE Hardware: new tarps, extension cords, batteries, that filled up the back of my small pickup. The other was to volunteer at the distribution center for a few hours, to assist those who had lost everything in the fires: everything from basic household commodities, to tents, to tarps, to extension cords, to generators.
I found that as I gathered items for the people who came to the center, the needs were great, even months after the event. I took the opportunity to talk with the people coming in and listen to the stories they had.
Tarps were much needed for protection of property and people from the weather. One family needed a large tarp to cover the back of their pickup canopy for shelter from the rain as some of the family members were sleeping in it at the campground where they were staying.
One man simply needed a long extension cord to begin clearing limbs and trees with an electric chainsaw.
One woman needed some basic items, such as diapers, dish soap, laundry detergent, including a flashlight with batteries for them to walk from their camper to the bathroom at night.
Another family needed a "mattress in a box" to put on a cement floor in a garage where they were staying. It was for the children to sleep on; they have been sleeping on blankets spread on the floor.
Tents were needed by some, to keep items in or to sleep in.
One woman I talked with was staying in a motel with her family since the fires, waiting for insurance and other disaster relief funds to reach them. For the time being, they were being helped financially with donated funds and needed items.
At least a couple of times, I heard the question, "Why didn't you come to us for help sooner?" The reply was they "didn't think they would need it," believing insurance or disaster assistance would be quicker to arrive or found it was not enough to cover their true loss. One woman explained how they lost three cars with their home in the fires, and it required the payoff on all three to replace them with one pickup.
I frequently heard the explanation that many properties had not received clearance for hazardous conditions and materials, delaying cleanup and reconstruction.
The one thing I did not hear in any of these stories was bitterness or despair. These people were resilient and truly appreciative of the assistance they were getting but preparing to move on and rebuild their lives in the canyon region that was close to their hearts as home.
I hope this helps in putting a face on the efforts we are making to assist in the recovery. Thank you to all you who are participating.
The Rev. Dexter Danielson is a member of the Forest Grove Daybreak Rotary Club and retired Forest Grove Police Department and Forest Grove Fire & Rescue chaplain. He lives in Forest Grove.
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