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We’ve Been Here Before…Volunteers Responding to Disaster

The Lightning Fires that consumed our beautiful mountains with a relentless ferocity unleashed a torrent of bravery, kindness, spirit, and ingenuity from every part of our beloved community.  People are donating, volunteering, feeding people, and sharing housing with neighbors, coworkers, friends, and strangers in record numbers.  While we are just one agency involved in this Disaster Response, we connected almost 3,000 volunteers to help as Counselors, Shelter Workers, at Donations sites, and in so many other critical tasks over the past two weeks.

I know that many more tried and could not get through the phone lines or were waitlisted for a volunteer shift and that we had to put out of area volunteers and offers from large groups on hold.  We are profoundly grateful to everyone who reached out to us, and the thousands more volunteering through churches and other agencies.

While my message today is one of thanks, I also want to share what we know of the road that lies ahead for our community and our agency.  We are nowhere near the end of our journey working together to clean up and rebuild our parks, public spaces, businesses, and homes.  Our commitment is to keep reaching out and engaging the skills and talents of our community in service to helping every local business, school, family, and public agency that needs help to clean up, reopen, or rebuild.

When I first joined the Volunteer Center in the early 1980’s it was to replace a staff member reassigned to a two-year effort coordinating volunteers to help our community clean-up and rebuild after floods. Something we did again after the Loma Prieta Earthquake and floods in the early 90’s.  While the challenges of Covid-19 and the recession are unlike anything we’ve faced in a prior disaster response, we are absolutely confident that, working together we will rise from these ashes strong and united.

Now it’s time to take a breath and make the shift from the incredible rush of setting up evacuation, mass care, and immediate safety towards the long, and often slow process of cleaning, replanting, replacing, and rebuilding what we’ve lost.  If you have been helping all along, it’s time to practice some self-care and let others step up, as we’ll need what you’ve learned in the weeks and months ahead.  If we’ve asked you to wait to help, be patient, and stay connected as we post new needs each week as it is safe to do so.

We look forward to rebuilding with you.


Blog Post Written by Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney.  Karen has led the Volunteer Center for more than 35 years and is an internationally recognized leader, trainer, and speaker in the field of volunteerism, community building, and nonprofit management. Karen’s formula for success is “hope, fun, curiosity, gratitude, belief in people, and good data.”

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