Survivors of California’s Wildfires Come Together to Bring Thanksgiving to Recent Victims

Smoke hangs over residences leveled by the Camp Fire in a neighborhood of Paradise, Calif, on Nov. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

It was almost four months ago when the Carr Fire near Redding, Calif., ripped through Amanda Woodley’s town. The blaze killed her 70-year-old grandmother and her 4- and 5-year-old cousins.

So earlier this month, when the Camp Fire destroyed Paradise, Calif., leaving thousands homeless and more than 70 dead, all she could do was cry.

“Not again,” she thought.

“For two days I couldn’t stop crying, but then on the third day I woke up with a purpose,” Woodley said. “And that was to provide (evacuees) with a little normalcy, a meal, maybe just a day to get away from the chaos.”

She took to Facebook and said she wanted to organize a Thanksgiving dinner for the Camp Fire victims.

Now, more than 100 volunteers have come together to feed 1,000 people on Thanksgiving Day. Along with Woodley, two other women, Torrey Moherman and Jessica Desrochers, are helping to organize the event at the VFW Hall in Gridley, Calif., about 30 miles from Paradise. The three of them met for the first time on Monday (Nov. 19).

“We’ve never met each other, but we’re friends now,” Woodley said.

Desrochers, who lives in Citrus Heights, Calif., an hour and a half south of Paradise, said she knows what it’s like to lose a home. When she was 14, she lost hers in a fire caused by a clothes dryer.

“We were lucky to replace what we had, but it was still an ordeal,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine running for my life with flames in my face and all the other horror stories. I have to do something. If I was in that position, I know they (the community) would do the same for us.”

She explained that there will be live music at the Thanksgiving dinner, as well as gift card giveaways. For those who can’t get to the dinner, volunteers will be delivering meals to shelters where evacuees are staying and to tents or homes whose residents lost their cars in the fire.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Tracy Simmons

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