Friday, September 17, 2021

Center opens to assist Bear fire survivors

OROOVIL – The parking lot at Lakeside Plaza was busy Wednesday as Bayer fire survivors and supporters jockeyed vehicles into the parking spaces. Crowds of individuals and families dwindled and flowed through the afternoon and evening as people came together in memory of the tragedy they all had in common: the 2020 fires that devastated 300,000 mountain communities, including Berry Creek and Feather Falls. More than an acre was set on fire. and killed 16 people.

“Today is the one year anniversary of Aag and it is about coming together to remember, share and support. It is also about showing this community, the survivors, our new resource center,” said Jake Fender, program manager for California Hope for Northern Valley Catholic Social Services.

The commemoration was held from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the new 2,000-square-foot Long Term Bear Fire Recovery Group Resource Center. While the center’s grand opening is scheduled for September 13, Wednesday’s “pre-opening” event included catered meals from La Familia in Chico and Wagon Wheels in Oroville.

“We had over 200 people come,” Fender said.

Apart from food, emergency preparedness kits, new socks, hand sanitisers, gas cards were also being distributed. Survivors can also talk to crisis counselors and support each other as resource people during the incident.

“We lost everything except our kids and our dogs. We’re back on the hill living at a friend’s property. Going to the city for things to do and meeting the people who help us goes a long way for us. Having this center here will help. We just want our lives back,” said Berry Creek resident Toby Bond, who attended Wednesday’s event with his wife Bobby Zedekar and their three children.

Those attending the event included Butte County District 1 Supervisor Bill Connelly, Congressman Doug LaMalfa and Butte County Sheriff Corey Honia.

“Supervisor Connelly spoke and was very helpful and well received. He said a lot of positive things. He really connected with the people. Congressman Lamalfa also stopped by and chatted with members of his constituency,” Fender said .

Honia arrived with Pastors Ed Hall and Larry Bethune from the Sheriff’s Office and spent their time talking with survivors and crisis counselors and other members of the recovery group.

“Obviously it’s an important day. It’s always sad when we as a community have to come together to celebrate something born out of tragedy, but I felt it was here to connect with survivors.” It’s important to stay, to talk with them,” Honia said.

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In addition to enjoying meals, connecting with each other and resource experts and crisis counselors, survivors had the opportunity to visit Micah and Reuben, two golden retrievers who are part of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry Huh.

“They’re beautiful,” said Olivia Kelly, who came over lunch break from the Butte County district attorney’s office with her co-worker JJ Stark-Modlin.

“We thought it was important to be here and show our support,” Kelly said.

A small room with a table for rock painting was set aside for the entertainment of children and some adults. Once the center opens, the space will serve as a meeting room.

While survivors discussed their frustrations and needs with counselors and support staff, they also had a chance to share the positive with others. A large three-panel-poster board was set up so that survivors could write and post on sticky notes that gave them hope.

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“He has a roof over my head,” “My beautiful grandchildren,” “My family, friends and fur kids,” “Community support” and “Life! “Norma Lacey, Northern Valley Catholic Social Services Case Supervisor, pointing to some sticky notes.

Once the center opens, it will be manned by crisis counselors who will assist survivors with “mild emotional support”, filling out forms, using the center’s computers, accessing the Internet, finding limited needs and other resources. will be able The location will also provide a place for case managers and other service providers to meet with customers.

“It’s a community space for them to access. It’s located in the center of the intersection that survivors from the Berry Creek and Feather Falls areas pass through to get to town or stopping for gas and groceries at the Lakeside Market It’s a central location that’s close to the city for them,” Fender said.

The Bare Fire Long Term Recovery Group is a collaboration of over 30 individuals and agencies that have come together to support survivors. In addition to Northern Valley Catholic Social Services and Cal Hope, members include Butte 2-1-1, Oroville Hope Center, Heaven of Hope on Wheels, St. Vincent de Paul, Auroville Hope Center and United Way of Northern California.

The Resource Center is located at Lakeside Plaza, 5250 Olive Hwy, Suite J. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit the Recovery Group Facebook page https:// for more information. www.facebook.com/bearfireltrg or call the Hope Line at 815-1920.

Center opens to assist Bear fire survivors
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