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Various Wilsonville groups band together to support Villebois fire victims

COURTESY PHOTO - Left to right: Meridian Creek Middle Schoolers Salma Manuel, Aysha Marin, Bianca Pinoli, Persia Bowman and Vivian Williams of Three Rivers Charter School donated over $400 to the Villebois Fire Relief Fund.

As those displaced by the fire that ravaged a condominium complex and nearby homes in the Villebois neighborhood March 31 confirmed, the trauma associated with the event may linger for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless — whether it be an act as small as selling cookies in the pouring rain or as significant as organizing a nonprofit to distribute thousands of dollars to victims — Wilsonville community members, groups, businesses and a local nonprofit have banded together to help the victims through this tough time.

"We care about our community," Villebois resident Katie Green said. "This has been a really neat thing to be a part of because that's who we are."

Raising, distributing cash

A few days after the fire, a group of Villebois residents deliberated at Green's house how best to properly distribute money to fire victims.

Wilsonville City Councilor Ben West had already started a GoFundMe account, Villebois Fire Relief Fund, the morning after the blaze and quickly raised thousands of dollars. However, distributing the funds out of his own bank account would expose him to exorbitant taxes.

So West, Green and fellow Villebois residents Paul Rummell, Kristin Smith, Kevin Swan and Jim Bruns decided to put their heads together to come up with a solution.

"I had brought up a concern that I hoped these funds would be fairly distributed and that's how I got into this," Green said.

The group considered starting a new nonprofit organization, but to save time, decided to form a subcommittee out of Green's nonprofit for the Wilsonville Brewfest — Brews for Community.

"I was the one with the nonprofit, so rather than waiting (approximately) 90 days to start a new nonprofit, I was making sure it was getting out to people in need quicker," Green said.

In the week after the fire, local businesses like Vanguard Brewing, Biscuits Cafe and Lux Sucre Desserts held fundraisers and donated the cash, which Green said totaled about $12,000, to the Brews For Community subcommittee.

Then, the board collected 12 donation applications from Villebois residents seeking assistance and distributed the $12,000 to them. Along with buying new material goods, Green and West said applicants sought donations for covering deductibles, treatment for medical issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and temporary housing.

"It fills in where those unexpected expenses arise," West said.

As of last week, the GoFundMe had raised over $16,000 but the nonprofit hadn't yet been able to collect the funds. Green said they will distribute more money once they do. West said the nonprofit could continue after the fire donations have been distributed and be used as a general Wilsonville disaster relief fund.

"Once we get past this stage and people have gotten that support, we're going to hopefully build the nonprofit moving forward into a Wilsonville regional support system," West said.

Like Green, West has been impressed by the response from the Wilsonville community to the tragedy.

"It's galvanized the community as a whole," West said. "That's the silver lining in this tragedy and catastrophe."

Middle schoolers chip in

Assigned a social studies projects where groups had to contribute to a worthy cause, Meridian Creek Middle Schoolers Salma Manuel, Aysha Marin, Bianca Pinoli and Persia Bowman joined forces.

Though none of the students live in Villebois, hearing about the devastating event in their community impacted them. To help the victims, they decided to start a fundraiser for Villebois relief efforts.

"To know that people just like you lost their home and lost everything is super sad," Marin said.

The quartet baked goodies such as cookies, brownies and "scotcheroos," made a variety of bracelets and hot chocolate, distributed fliers at school and in their neighborhood, and then sold the items at a nearby park. They initially thought they would raise under $100 but, despite a downpour that day, ended up collecting over $400, which they then donated to West's GoFundMe page.

"I think when they were counting (the money) in the end their eyes kept getting bigger and bigger," said Bianca's mother Miriam Pinoli.

Along with the A they received for two-thirds of the assignment, the students felt good simply for giving.

"It felt really nice because we knew we had done a good thing," Bianca said.

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - The Wilsonville Piecemakers, including Mary Shorten (front), Jeannine Johnson (middle) and Anne Prewett, made quilts for the victims of the Villebois fire.

Showing 'somebody cares'

The Wilsonville Piecemakers, which operate through Wilsonville Community Seniors Inc. (WCSI), makes over 100 quilts for a variety of charities and organizations such as Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center throughout the year.

So after Piecemakers Treasurer Marianne Champlin watched the condominium complex burn just blocks away from her home in Villebois, she brought up the idea of making quilts for the victims of the fire.

The rest of the Piecemakers agreed and went to work. Last week, WCSI member Donna Atkinson delivered the quilts to the Villebois nonprofit board members, who then planned to donate them to the 12 victims who applied for aid. Last week, the Piecemakers hoped to donate even more quilts to the victims.

Because to them, quilts represent more than just soft fabric.

"It (a quilt) shows that somebody cares. … Maybe this will give them comfort that they can put it over them while they are watching television or just laying on the bed crying," Champlin said. "It will give them comfort that somebody cares and maybe think, 'Wow, somebody out there is reaching out to us.'"

Quench does its part

The day after the fire, Quench Taproom owner John Choppala asked West and Rummell what the business located in the Villebois Village Center could do to help.

Knowing that Quench had some extra space next door in an area it plans to turn into a restaurant, they thought using the facility to store and distribute donations would be useful. So Rummel and West advertised to the community, and Quench was filled with donations of items like pillows, dog treats and clothes the next day.

Quench quickly ran out of room for more donations and was distributing them to impacted residents as of last week. Quench also raised $300 from sales to the GoFundMe.

Choppala was happy to play a role in the relief effort.

"We're part of the community here. Our business is literally almost right next door to where the fire happened. Our regulars are people affected by the fire," Choppala said. "We feel like we're part of the community here so anything we could do to help was the least we could do."


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