When the Kincade Fire roared into parts of Sonoma County in late 2019, the initial feeling was one of shock and disbelief. The same geographical area had barely started recovering from the Tubbs Fire of just two years prior, and it felt like lighting was striking twice.
The areas hit by Kincade affected a vulnerable section of our community. Many farm workers and those who work in hospitality, particularly in the Sonoma, Alexander Valley and Geyserville wine regions, were deeply impacted when they lost homes, belongings and were forced to stay away from work for weeks at a time. For those who live paycheck-to-paycheck, it was a big blow to their finances.
The Warner and Hall families, both of which had homes on a shared property close to Healdsburg Plaza, were forced to flee as a wildfire sparked nearby. The Warners lost their historic homestead that had been in their family for more than 100 years. Without homeowner’s insurance and no government declaration of a federal emergency, both families were unsure of where to turn for shelter and basic necessities.
At Corazón Healdsburg, based in Northern Sonoma County, one of our many community initiatives is abetting emergency situations, such as the Kincade Fire. With the help of more than 1,000 donors, we were able to quickly step up to help both the Hall and Warner families, as well as the many other families dealing with the fallout of the fire. Our Unity and Community Fund, established two days after the fire started, made it possible to help families replace essentials such as food and clothing, assist with finding shelter for those displaced, help with evacuations and enable individuals to restock their refrigerators following days-long power shutoffs, to the tune of 150,000 pounds of food. We were even able to assist with pets and farm animals, many of which suffered burnt paws or other injuries in the fire.
In addition to emergency response, Corazón Healdsburg also operates a bilingual resource center in Healdsburg and offers programs comprising family support, education for multiple generations, financial guidance and legal assistance. Approximately 85% of those we serve are of Latino heritage, so we work to amplify the local Latinx voice and organize festive cultural celebrations throughout the year. Overall, we work to strengthen the Northern Sonoma County community by bridging the racial, cultural, and economic divides that exist among us today. Ultimately our mission is to overcome cycles of poverty and empower participating families to create new relationships—with each other, with the community at large, and with local systems and services that exist for everyone.
Natural disasters like the Kincade Fire and the 2017 Sonoma County fires underscore the significant progress Corazón Healdsburg has made since its founding, as well as the work that is yet to be done. Next up, and with matching funds and additional donations in hand, we are preparing to assist our community with the removal of post-fire debris. Debris removal can cost thousands of dollars—an expense that most of the families in Northern Sonoma County are not equipped to cover.
In this age of uncertainty, we stand prepared to tackle the new challenges that await us. We invite you to join us in helping to rebuild communities and lives.
Please visit www.corazonhealdsburg.org to learn how you can join us in our important work.
Donna Berry Glass is a freelance writer in Marin County who writes mostly about family and kid-oriented topics. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family exploring the natural beauty of Marin, snuggling with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel while reading a good book or whipping up something delicious in her space-challenged kitchen. Donna is a supporter of the California Academy of Sciences, a world class science museum and research institution, and the Institute on Aging which provides much needed services to seniors and disabled individuals.