Last month in the LocalsGuide we introduced Heart Rising, a new organization formed to assist our families affected by the Almeda Fire. To recap: In the first few weeks after the fire, so many of us were helping families we knew who had lost everything as we all came to terms with the devastation in our communities and as our displaced friends and families worked to replace the mandatory essentials and strived to find temporary housing.
I knew in talking with others and what I also experienced, was that our donated financial assistance, goods, and time given to so many families who we knew personally, as well as our contributions to GoFundMe accounts and aid organizations, was that this model was not sustainable. Our individual funds were going fast and we were only in week one of this journey.
I had the insight that if we switched it around and instead of individuals trying to help so many, we set it up instead as a group of 5 households or more (a team) working together to support one or two families, that it could be sustainable. More importantly, it would create a group that could get to know one another, form a deeper sense of community, find a working plan that fits in with each of their lives, and form a relationship of support between families that would last beyond the first month after the fire and span the recovery ahead.
As we put this idea into the community, you have responded. It took time to put things into place but in the past several week’s teams have been formed and are working with assigned families who have reached out.
The urge was to respond pronto as we knew the families were suffering, but it was essential to put a framework in place that could work long-term. That was my goal. As of the day I am writing this, October 25, 2020, I am finding that the families I am speaking with are emerging from the initial shock and state of being blindsided by this massive tragedy. Today, as the shock wears off and the reality sets in, grief is rising in them. It is a time where reaching out and saying you are not alone, we care about you and we have a team of support for you, now and through the long haul, is deeply moving and meaningful to them and helps to reduce their anxiety and despair.
We are finding that for a family to clearly identify their needs is actually difficult because of their state of overwhelm. By volunteers just talking to them, it helps them to identify their priority needs and from there a plan can be formed. With a plan, anxiety is reduced. I want to share something I learned a long time ago that may be helpful to those caught in this situation. About 30 years ago, I had a very good therapist friend who was helping me navigate my husband’s terminal cancer diagnosis. We had a 5-year-old daughter and of course I was feeling a lot of anxiety, sadness, and fear. She gave me an invaluable exercise I use to this day. She told me she wanted me to take my time and write down every fear that I had. I diligently did my assignment and found I had 35 fears. The future was so unknown that my fears came from many directions. I showed her my list and she said she wanted me to create a plan of action for each fear. To write down what I would do in the event each fear materialized. I did. It took several weeks. The beauty and healing of that exercise was that it took all of that fear away from my mind and psyche and placed them in a notebook that sat on a table. It was no longer in me; it was over there. It changed the whole course of our journey together during that torturous and sacred time and allowed me to feel safe, care for my family, and guide the energy in an uplifting way. As things played out in a way that we were hoping to avoid, I referred to that notebook many times and I followed my plan. It was a lifesaver. I hope people can use that if they feel the need.
We are putting together a catalog of resources that can be identified by the type of help a family needs. Creating the resource catalog is an ongoing process and involves a lot of information and admin work. The catalog will be a good resource for the teams and families. For example, if a family needs housing assistance, the team can access those varied resources and help them with that process. If they need transportation, same thing. Clothing, food, trade tools, children’s items, etc. Our goal is to have a comprehensive online catalog/library that the teams or families can access to direct them to the best sources for their needs apart from what they can generate on their own.
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. We are finding individuals from businesses, book clubs, networks, friend groups etc., are volunteering and coming into our organization as an established team so that they can work together. 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. Following are how some are offering to help, please keep in mind that the volunteers are not necessarily providing these items on their own, some are, but in many cases they are locating sources for these items:
- Household Items
- Frienship & Support
- Children’s Items
- Gas Cards
- Gift Cards
- Admin Tasks
- Problem Solving
We currently have 9 people from multiple families living in a 2-room motel room with no cooking facilities and one car. Other families are on vouchers with motel rooms. Thank you Access, Red Cross, and FEMA, but those timelines are running out in the next week or two and when the families or we try to reach out to some of those organizations, we only get a voicemail with no response still after a week. With Covid, some organizations are not taking appointments. Some organizations are packing up and moving out and the need for help is growing. Many of the families we talked with at the end of October are terrified they will be living in their cars.
We are currently taking donations for the families through the Thalden Foundation, generously offered by Barry and Kathryn Thalden. As an even great act of generosity and care, the Thalden Foundation has offered to match the first $10,000 in donations received by Heart Rising. Donations can be marked for Heart Rising and sent to The Thalden Foundation at 550 Ashland Loop Road, Ashland, OR 97520. We are in the process of establishing Heart Rising as a nonprofit, 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. Just call me or text at 541-301-3435 and we will make arrangements.
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 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 have had several good helpers along the way so thank you Shields Bialasik, Julie Wiley, Kathryn and Barry Thalden and Sugar Mejia and of course, my husband Rob Edwards. I also want to thank Zoe Zapf and the students from the National Honor Society of Ashland High School who have offered to pick up and deliver goods. We are focused on finding housing solutions and once we do and our families have homes and a place to store and receive goods, we will need their help. Thank you National Honor Society and thank you everyone!
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 office at The Patie Millen Group at 541-488-0010.