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Mountain Area residents rally to support evacuees of the Detwiler Fire

Two Oakhurst Elementary School teachers and their children delivered cloths and stuffed animals Thursday morning, including, back row from left, Christy Newell, Logan White, Michelle White, front row from left, Logan Peugh, Gwyn White, Kira Peugh, and Shannon White.
Two Oakhurst Elementary School teachers and their children delivered cloths and stuffed animals Thursday morning, including, back row from left, Christy Newell, Logan White, Michelle White, front row from left, Logan Peugh, Gwyn White, Kira Peugh, and Shannon White. Sierra Star

Caring residents of the Mountain Area are responding to the immediate needs of thousands of Mariposa residents forced to leave their homes due to the Detwiler Fire, more than 250 of them now housed at three churches in Oakhurst.

The Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), designed to work in conjunction with the Red Cross, has set up a receiving area in the Sierra Star parking lot (49165 Road 426, across from Sierra Telephone) for donations of perishable food, clothing, and personal hygiene supplies.

More than 20 volunteer members with VOAD are sharing time at the booth, which will be open 7 a.m. till dusk for several days to receive donations, which are then delivered to the three churches where shelters have been established - Evangelical Free, Sierra Vista Presbyterian and Mountain Christian Center.

The first load of donated items went to EV Free last night and, at the end of today, a load will be taken to Sierra Vista Presbyterian. Evacuees at Mountain Christian Center will soon benefit from the donations.

Laura Norman is a Sierra Tel employee and chairperson of VOAD, which was organized two years ago.

“This community never ceases to amaze me with its generosity,” Norman said. “People are giving what they are able to do - from a few cans of food from some people to those who have gone shopping specifically for items to donate. One man drove up yesterday, opened his wallet, pulled out six dollars and said this is all I have, but I want to donate it.”

Norman said she was impressed with the thoughtfulness people have shown with their donations.

“Many of these Mariposa residents had less than three minutes to evacuate - and people have given some thought about what a person may need under those circumstances and brought us diabetic test strips, all kinds of personal hygiene items, baby diapers and new undergarments,” Norman said.

Oakhurst Elementary School teachers Christy Newell (first grade), Michelle White (third grade), and their children pulled up to the receiving area Thursday morning to deliver clothes and a few stuffed animals.

“If it was me in this situation I would want someone to be kindhearted and willing to donate clothes and food to help me and my family,” Newell said. “This is the least we can do to help our neighbors in Mariposa. This is one big mountain family, and you help out your family.”

Newell said that in addition to helping the Mariposa residents, having the children involved was a good lesson in helping others.

White echoed that sentiment.

“We wanted to include our children to show them how important it is to help other people in our mountain community,” White said.

On Wednesday the first load of donations went to EV Free Church where there was the biggest need. A second load of food and clothing will fill a lot of needs at Sierra Vista tonight, and a third load will go to Mountain Christian Center on Friday.

Norman said once the needs are met in Oakhurst, supplies will be taken to the shelter in Sonora.

Most of the evacuees do not know if their home will still be standing once it’s safe for them to return. Cal Fire reports 45 structures have been destroyed and the Mariposa Sheriff’s Department has identified at least eight of those structures are homes, with others being storage sheds, water well pump houses, barns, and miscellanea outbuildings.\

Norman wanted to remind the community that recovery from a disaster can be a long process.

“There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after a disaster, especially when a community enters the long-term recovery period.”

Details: VOAD, (559) 683-4911.

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