September 30, 2020

Oregon fires bring communities together for help and healing

Emergency kits and a $300,000 donation from Kaiser Permanente support Red Cross Cascades Region relief efforts.

Volunteers prepare 500 bins, which will be filled with safety gear and supplies to help people affected by wildfires recover, clean, and salvage their belongings.

Living in a constant state of uncertainty, wondering if she would have to evacuate from the wildfires, Nichole Powers says she was packed and ready to go at moment’s notice. “It’s was hard having half your home in your car and not knowing,” she said.

Powers was one of a group of Kaiser Permanente Northwest volunteers who recently worked alongside the Red Cross Cascades Region to pack 500 wildfire clean-up kits in Silverton, Oregon. As people affected by the Oregon fires return home, many will need support in assessing damage, starting clean-up of their properties, and putting the pieces of their lives back together.

Taking quick action

The kits, which will be given to people who have lost their homes, are one of the first steps to recovery. Each kit contains safety gear and supplies to help people sift through the ashes to find items that might have survived. They include tarps, gloves, N95 masks, hand sanitizer, garbage bags, and a wooden sifter box. A rake and shovel are also provided.

After the last kit was sealed, they were loaded into trucks and sent on the road to immediately be distributed to those in need.

 

 

The wildfire clean-up kit project came together quickly, according to Dale Kunce, CEO for the Red Cross Cascades Regions. “Different parts of our community are stepping in to lend a hand and make a difference in somebody else’s life,” he said. The effort has resulted in thousands of kits, which are being distributed across the state.

Not only are Kaiser Permanente staff members helping build kits, the organization also donated $300,000 to the Red Cross to support relief efforts in areas from Lane to Clackamas counties. “The donation makes a big difference and allows us to give more hope to people who need it,” Kunce said.

“Our hearts go out to everyone who has lost a home, business, and — even more tragically — a friend, or family member to these terrible wildfires,” said Jeff Collins, regional president for Kaiser Permanente of the Northwest. “We join the Northwest community in rallying around survivors who have evacuated, and supporting them in the coming weeks as they deal with the fire’s aftermath, as well as the longer-term process of rebuilding.”

Supporting our communities — and colleagues

Powers is a medical office director for Kaiser Permanente in Salem, Oregon, and says she knows some of these kits will go to her colleagues who had to evacuate, 2 of whom lost homes.

“They were having to move their homes in the middle of this and still coming to work every day and making sure we could be there for our members. It was incredibly impactful to watch what they were able to do,” she said.

“The least I could do was come out and build a kit to help these families that have to go back to their properties and see what they can salvage and find from their family heirlooms and things that are important to them.”

 

Learn more about how the Red Cross Cascade Region is supporting our Northwest communities in the wake of historic wildfires.