With painful memories of the 2017 Napa wildfires still fresh, a group of St. Helenans is trying to help a few of the thousands of people left homeless by the Camp Fire that wiped out most of Paradise last year.
RV to Paradise organizers are launching a month-long fundraising campaign starting Thursday, Feb. 14, and ending Friday, March 15. They hope to raise $30,000 to donate at least one RV to victims who lost their homes in the Camp Fire.
After the fire destroyed more than 13,000 homes in November, relief poured in from around the country in the form of food, clothes and gift cards to meet fire victims’ immediate needs. RV to Paradise aims to provide more long-term help in the form of stable housing until victims get back on their feet.
Each RV would go to a family with children or an elderly person or couple who lost their home. Donations would also help cover hookup fees and some furnishings. Mayor Geoff Ellsworth has asked Paradise Mayor Jody Jones to help identify deserving recipients.
In addition to cash, organizers would welcome donated or discounted RVs, as well as cars and trucks, since the fire destroyed thousands of vehicles. RV to Paradise plans to work with Rohr Chabad Jewish Center in Chico to help distribute any vehicles.
RV to Paradise operates under the nonprofit umbrella of the Federated Women of Upper Napa Valley, and the St. Helena City Council is scheduled to pass a resolution on Tuesday endorsing the effort.
Anne Carr of St. Helena was inspired to launch the effort after she and her husband Glenn Smith saw images of people living in tents and temporary shelters as cold and rainy weather approached.
“Short-term needs were being met with the outpouring of assistance, but these people are going to need help for years,” Carr said.
Victims can’t live on their land until it’s been cleared of fire debris, but with an RV they can rent space on someone else’s property and hook up to utilities, Carr said.
The project grew to include the possible donation of vehicles after a representative of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center told Carr how many people in Paradise had lost their cars and were on a waiting list to receive a new one.
Pat Dell saw Carr present the idea to the City Council and decided to get involved. A member of the Federated Women, Dell arranged for the project to operate under the service club’s nonprofit umbrella.
Carr reached out to friends like Pat Friday, who helped with publicity.
“Even though the fire happened a few months ago, there’s still a huge need for housing,” Friday said. “Our town can help their town.”
Friday helped produce a PSA promoting the project, along with Kirsten Mickelwait and Denise and Gene Armstead. It was edited by Pacific Union College film student Adam Adreveno.
The PSA, playing at the Cameo Cinema during the coming month, begins with the words, “It almost happened here. It did happen there.” The soundtrack features the song “One of these Days,” written by Nate Smith, who lost his home in the Camp Fire, and Mihkel Goodwin, who was born in Paradise.
RV to Paradise has already drawn support from the White Barn, Odd Fellows, Native Sons, St. Helena Chamber of Commerce and Soroptimist of the Americas, St. Helena Sunrise.
“People have been incredible,” Carr said.