Facing the loss of her house and everything she owned, Nancy Christiansen evacuated her Silverado area home on the first night of the October wildfires.
But instead of going to a hotel or a friend’s home, this Napa woman headed straight to a place that is especially important to her: The Salvation Army.
“The first thing I did was call the major,” or local manager of the Salvation Army, she said.
She wanted to find out if the emergency disaster team she belongs to had been activated, said Christiansen, 78.
Next she headed to the shelter at Crosswalk Church and started serving food for those who had been evacuated. Meanwhile, her house was being destroyed by the Atlas Fire.
“I thought, there are going to be a lot of people” that need a meal, she said. “That’s how I spent my first night away from home.”
Christiansen, a Realtor with Pacific Union International in Napa, has been a volunteer with the Salvation Army for more than 20 years.
Besides the emergency disaster team, one of her signature projects has been the group’s holiday assistance program, which provides gifts for needy families and children in the area.
“There are families in our community who can’t afford to give anything to their children at Christmas” or face hardship, she said. “And I can help.”
Help she certainly does.
Throughout the whole year, Christiansen buys multiples of clothing, toys, bikes and other future holiday gifts for the Salvation Army program. She stores them in her basement.
“I buy things as I see them on sale” year-round, she said. For example, “I had 57 backpacks, 42 art kits, 10 20” bikes, 15 Kindle Fires, 22 jackets and about 20 fingernail polish kits.”
Unfortunately, the fires not only destroyed her house, the flames also wiped out her entire supply of donations earmarked for the Salvation Army holiday assistance program.
“I had all that in my basement and it’s all gone. It makes me cry every time I think of it.”
But that hasn’t stopped her. Christiansen said she started shopping again to try and replace at least some of what was lost. For example, she bought 40 sweatshirts at the GAP the other day, she said.
She’d love to replenish all of the supplies that were burned, but it was hard to find good deals and repurchase everything on such short notice.
Christiansen said she likes to help the Salvation Army because the organization helps people in need, especially in Napa itself.
“I like the feeling of knowing our community is being served—from those that are down and out or just need a little bit of extra help. And it’s given freely.”
“I just like knowing that children are having a Christmas,” she said. “The community pulls together to provide the toys and it does my heart good to know the program is there for these children.”
The fire recovery and insurance process for her own home has taken up a fair share of her extra time, said Christiansen, but she never thought of not helping the Salvation Army.
“I want to help,” she said. “I’ll continue doing it as long as I can.”