CalNonprofits Articles

The terrible fires in Northern California remind us of the importance of emergency preparedness, and the importance of on-the-ground networks that can respond to what can’t be prepared for. We’re inspired by these stories, a few examples among many, of nonprofits at work.

Spanish speakers are grateful for the social media and mobile feeds of Sonoma’s La Luz Center.

La Luz Center is a primary hub for Spanish language information on fire-related resources and evacuations. They’re also seeking monetary donations to support the current and future needs of their Latino community clients whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by the fires. They use these funds to help clients apply for disaster unemployment, individual assistance disaster relief funds, and rental assistance referrals and job placement referrals.

La Luz, a family resource center founded to serve the Latino community — especially monolingual Spanish speakers — opened their center to everyone in the area in need of help as a result of the fires. They’ve also been distributing supplies and serving daily hot meals to fire-impacted community members.

Arts organizations apply their missions in service.

San Francisco Classical Voice has been using social media and its website to share much-needed reporting on the impact of the fires on local arts organizations, as well as spreading the word on resources specific to musicians and artists, such as information on available housing for musicians who’ve been displaced by the fire.

Arts groups such as the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music dedicated recent performances as fundraisers for disaster relief and first responders.

During the height of the fires, numerous Bay Area museums offered free admission to residents from affected counties. As the California Academy of Sciences described these efforts: “We’re here as a free, safe place to get you and your family out of the smoke during the day.”

The region’s food banks have been working overtime moving much-needed food products into Napa and Sonoma.

According to Daniela Ogden of the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB):“The biggest impact you can make to help food banks is to donate money and share their donation pages on social media. These gifts go further than donations of food because food banks can make a dollar go further and they have a better understanding of the needs of their community."

She adds, “Food banks have disaster plans in place that prepare them for events like the fires. They work closely with the state, the feds, and their counties to respond to disasters, as the Redwood Empire Food Bank has been doing with Sonoma County. Food banks also jump in to help each other. Bay Area food banks have been providing relief workers, finding drivers, and sending food.”

The region’s food banks are understandably serving more people than usual -- over 400 people per hour -- and distributing food in typical locations like soup kitchens and churches, as well as pop-up distributions at evacuation centers. CAFB is also deploying a large group of volunteer CalFresh Outreach workers to enroll evacuees in Disaster CalFresh.

Disaster CalFresh provides temporary food assistance to people recovering from disasters. People who qualify for Disaster CalFresh will be issued a debit card with one month of benefits that can be used to buy food.

We all have stories like these about other nonprofits and other disasters.

What we sometimes forget is that in a disaster, every nonprofit will drop what it is doing to help. A community center becomes a shelter. Nonprofits in communities of color use their language ability and their networks to get emergency information out to constituents. This isn’t “mission drift.” This is answering the question: “What does our community need us to be doing right now?"

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