St. Helena’s Marty Heise is seeking good, gently used bicycles for children to distribute to the estimated 800 kids who lost their bikes as a result of the devastating Valley Fire.

On Saturday, roughly during the hours of St. Helena’s Hometown Harvest Festival, Heise and others will accept the bikes at the New Harvest Community Church, 1343 Spring St.

Heise also is seeking winter clothing for children and adults because she’s worried about the cold weather this winter. Preferably the clothing should be new, she said.

“We will give the donors a receipt, because we’re a recognized 501c3 nonprofit. If they bring funds, they can designate what they want us to use it for, either winter attire or bicycles,” she said.

Heise has been involved in two other bicycle giveaways for children in the past two weeks: the first Oct. 3 during the charity Konocti Challenge, operated by the Lakeport Rotary Club; and the second last Saturday, when she was one of 120 volunteers who gave away 300 bikes for children at Middletown’s Minnie Cannon Elementary School. A Livermore resident, Candy Alcott, who formerly lived in Lake County, organized that bike event.

Heise has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross since the Valley Fire began and she manned the disaster relief center based at the Middletown Senior Center and Middletown Library.

On Tuesday, she told a story of how she got involved in giving away bikes. “There was a little boy sitting there, he seemed quiet and very well-behaved, which is abnormal for a child,” she said. The boy was about 10 and as Heise had nothing to do, she thought she’d engage him in a conversation.

It didn’t work, at least until she started talking about bicycles. He confirmed that he had lost his Mongoose bike in the fire – it burned up – and Heise asked if he thought it would be OK if she worked on getting him another bike. He warmed up and started talking. Heise said she’d have to ask his parents for permission and told him, that possibly, somehow, she would work to find him a bike.

“That’s how it started. He just wanted to keep talking bikes,” Heise said. She added that she, too, has lost her bike, a Trek Y11 carbon fiber bike that was stolen from her front porch, and the youngster really “sparked up at that, because he knew exactly what it was.”

She ended the conversation by telling him that “we can’t fix everything but maybe we can make it a little easier.”

Heise passed out spreadsheets to the various disaster relief personnel to ask families about the bicycles they had lost. The personnel gathered the information and when the families were asked about their bicycles, they started to smile.

“It became a fun little addition, they were applying for help and getting other stuff but it became like a cherry, a little bit of joy,” Heise said.

If you bring a child’s bike, it has to be in good working order and be certified that it is safe to ride, Heise said. Jake Scheideman, owner of St. Helena Cyclery, has been certifying the bikes, including several that were at the church, ready to be given away.

Another way you can be a part of the effort to help Valley Fire victims is by registering and walking or running in the 1 Mile Fun Run or 5K Run/Walk. Both are part of St. Helena’s Hometown Harvest Festival on Saturday. The walk starts at 8 a.m., and the run a half-hour later, at the corner of Adams Street and Oak Avenue.

When you register for the event, you can donate to the UpValley Family Centers, which is helping those who need it. Additionally, in lieu of providing T-shirts to every runner or walker, those monies will be saved and all net proceeds will be donated to the UpValley Family Centers.

Indira Lopez, program director of the UpValley Family Centers, sent a note to Grace Episcopal Church’s GO (Grace Outreach) Committee, which has contributed $11,200 to the UpValley Family Centers for fire victims.

Lopez said, “We are gratified to help those in their time of need. As we talk with people affected by the fire, it is amazing the resilience we see. For example, we helped a woman and her boyfriend who lost their home to the fire. She works as a teacher in Napa County and during the entire evacuation period, she continued teaching her students each day, and after work would focus on looking for where they were going to live.

“Fortunately the couple found an apartment. Through our emergency assistance fund, we were able to help them pay for the first month’s rent and provided them with gas and clothing.”

It’s no surprise that Napa County has been so generous to support the victims of the Valley Fire, which burned more than 76,000 acres and destroyed 1,900 structures, including more than 1,200 homes. The fire began Sept. 12 on Cobb Mountain.

On Sept. 30, just about two weeks after the fire began, more than 300 people attended an event at Rutherford’s Alpha Omega winery and contributed $100,000 for Valley Fire victims. The event was sponsored by Alpha Omega, Darioush, St. Supery and the Napa Valley Film Festival. The four selected the UpValley Family Centers and #LakeCountyRising as their benefactors to receive 100 percent of the funds collected. The Fund-a-Need kicked off with a generous donation of $10,000 from Ristorante Allegria.

Rutherford Fire Chief Davie Pina and firefighter Bret Skilling attended the event, along with other first responders.

Lake County Rising Valley Relief Fund

Three leading organizations that represent wineries and vineyard owners in Lake County are leading the fundraising drive – #LakeCountyRising – to help those affected by the Valley Fire. The organizations include Lake County Winegrape Commission, Lake County Winery Association and Lake County Wine Alliance.

The Wine Alliance, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, will manage the collection and distribution of tax-deductible donations to support rebuilding efforts focused on livelihood, housing and community needs.

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st

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