Second Responder Stories

Note: these stories are from 2019, and photos are pre-COVID-19. In Sonoma, Marin, Solano, and Napa Counties, Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL) + the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County (VCSC) operate Emergency Volunteer Centers and/or help with emergency evacuations. We work with government and nonprofit agencies to gather and assess community needs on an ongoing basis when a disaster strikes. Additionally, we help oversee and manage physical and monetary donations by distributing them to nonprofit agencies helping individuals directly affected. The recent Kincade Fire raged for 11 days, burning nearly 78,000 acres — an area more than double the size of San Francisco. The Kincade Fire forced more than 180,000 residents out of their homes. Of the 374 buildings it destroyed, 174 were residential.

When a disaster strikes, many step up to help. We are incredibly grateful to our first responders who put themselves in danger to save lives. But what happens when the critical first response work is completed – once the victims have been transported, the injured treated, and fires suppressed? The workers on the scene in the days, weeks and months after a disaster see less of the limelight. Second responders work to clean up the ravages of a disaster area, stabilize infrastructure and help return regions to normal operations. Although they may not literally be putting out fires, those who work in the nonprofit sector play a vital role in disaster recovery.

Below are some of our second responder stories from last week.

Feeding Those in Need

On Friday, the team and volunteers worked with Catholic Charities in Santa Rosa where they set up a food line at 8am for community members to go “shopping”. 2,000 people showed up — more than expected — and the food started to run out. In response, we drove four trucks to Foodmaxx where we met a Red Cross staff member who gave us $1,500 that had been donated. We were able to purchase nine full carts of food varying from beans and soups to eggs and milk to apples and other fresh produce.

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Volunteers distribute food — thank you for your help!

Youth Step Up

On 10/31 and 11/1 Angelita, our Youth Impact Coordinator, helped mobilize students to support food distribution along with many other organizations. Through our Youth Impact Program, local youth don’t just complete their service hours: they are able to build their leadership skills by being directly involved in rebuilding communities and have the opportunity to work with community representatives.

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Board Member Serena Leinau poses with city staff and former Mayor Chris Coursey. A youth works alongside SRPD Chief Ray

Communication is Key

When a disaster happens communities are not always equipped with the basic language skills to communicate effectively with non-English speakers, which could hinder the relief efforts immensely in certain cases. For that reason, volunteers assisting with language translation and interpretation can be just as important as any other volunteer providing aid.

Gemma Bolaños , Case Manager in our Court Referral Program, supported communication efforts via the Volunteer Center’s Facebook Page. Gemma translated and shared the latest news from various law enforcement agencies as well as from nonprofit organizations who were supporting Latinx/Immigrant communities. Gemma also assisted with intake forms at evacuation shelters during the first couple of days of the fires.