Corazón Healdsburg’s team sprung into action as the fire spread; integrating our own Casa del Corazón headquarters with the Red Cross shelter set up on site and activating our partners across the region to source staff for seven more Red Cross shelters. Corazón found hotel rooms for families throughout the Bay Area, in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, San Rafael, Oakland, Pleasanton, Foster City and San Francisco. In these cities, where the air was clean and power and water was available, our northern Sonoma County families waited for the fire to be contained and the mandatory evacuation order to be lifted.
When families were allowed to return to the community, Casa del Corazón headquarters were converted from a shelter back into a resource center. Working side by side with Sonoma County’s Local Assistance Center for fire relief in our community center location, we once again became the hub where residents came for support during the crisis after the crisis.
With the trauma and experience of the 2017 Sonoma Complex fires still fresh in our collective memory, Corazón donors and staff were quick to respond. Calls flooded in from companies and individuals across the country who wanted to donate goods to those in need. As a result, we were able to re-open the Free Store within two weeks of repopulation, at a space generously donated to Corazón Healdsburg, on the former site of DiVine Pizza. Corazón Healdsburg’s Free Store served 2,771 households over 66 days in operation.
During this time, we continued to provide housing assistance, pet care for animals burned in the fire, tools to help people get back to work, clothes, and financial assistance to cover expenses such as utility bills, rent, and medical care. Corazón also partnered with the Redwood Empire Food Bank and World Central Kitchen to distribute over 47,000 meals valued at over $150,000 to 5,648 of our local residents. And while many other agencies were distributing gift cards for national chain stores such as Target and Walmart, we wanted your donated funds to also support local businesses that had suffered losses during the fire. By providing gift cards to neighborhood vendors like Lola’s Market, Big John’s Market, Jerry’s Valero gas station, as well as Visa gift cards that could be used at any local retailer, we were able to amplify your impact. Your response helped both residents and businesses recover.
On November 24, 2019 we were proud to present our signature Día de los Muertos event. Due to the Kincade Fire, it was sadly postponed from its original date of October 27, 2019. However, after the fire was contained, our team of incredible volunteers worked to reschedule vendors and performers and brought together a much needed celebration and created an opportunity for healing, on a scale never seen before in our community. With over 3,500 members of our diverse Healdsburg community in attendance, the Día de los Muertos celebration showed just how strong we can be when we come together as one family.
On January 19, 2020, 88 days after the fire broke out, the 2019 Healdsburg Free Store closed its doors. During the same week, our last displaced client, checked out of the hotel we’d arranged for him and returned to his property, where a new trailer, and the overwhelming task of rebuilding his life after the fire awaited.
These events marked the end of Phase One of our Kincade Fire recovery efforts which focused on basic needs and laid the groundwork for Corazón’s longer, but more impactful and difficult next phase.