How Winters and Yolo County residents can help victims of the Camp Fire

Knowing where to donate or how to volunteer can help ensure well-intentioned charitable giving has the most-impact.
Damaged utility poles are seen in a photo tweeted by the Cal Fire Butte unit on Monday, November 12, 2018. Photo: Cal Fire Butte

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  • Lester Farms Bakery has an ongoing Camp Fire donation drive. The business is asking for donations of gift cards, backpacks, pillows and other miscellaneous items. A full list of requested items is available on the Lester Farms Bakery Facebook page.
  • On Sunday, Nov. 25, Berryessa Brewing will host a fundraising effort where all proceeds from the sale of a special brew called “Thirst Responders” will be donated to the North Valley Community Foundation Fund. Organizers will also be collecting gift cards and are asking specifically for cards from Target, Raley’s and Safeway. The event starts at 1 p.m. and goes on until 6 p.m.
  • On Saturday, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor and other local leaders are hosting at the Senior Center, 646 A Street in Davis. The event starts at 1 p.m. and admission is free with the donation of a gift card to a store that sells groceries or clothing.
  • Also on Saturday, the Stag Bar in Woodland is hosting a benefit concert called “Stomp the Fire” starting at 12 p.m. There is no cover to attend the event, though organizers are asking for donations.
  • Best ways to help

    Although making a charitable donation after a natural disaster or other public safety crisis can be well-intentioned, organizers say certain types of donations have more impact — and some donations can actually hinder relief efforts instead of help them. Donations of used clothing is almost always discouraged — and, in fact, first responders and charitable organizations responding to the Camp Fire say they are already overwhelmed with used clothing donations and are running out of space to put them. In most cases, wildfire survivors don’t have anywhere to put the clothes that are donated, and it takes organizations a considerable amount of time to sort through used clothing donations that could be better spent assisting wildfire victims in more productive ways. Clothes pile up, creating unsafe and often times unhygienic areas at evacuation centers where space is already limited. Blankets and towels are also not needed at the moment; a number of charities say they are providing these to evacuees and are well-supplied for the moment. Camp Fire relief organizers are also urging people not to donate hay and feed for horses and other livestock unless there is a specific request for it. The absolute best thing to give that is sure to have the most-impact, organizers say, is money because organizers can use those funds to buy disaster victims exactly what they need. The organizers on the ground know the best way to spend the money in a way that will provide the most assistance to those who need it the most. Federal charity officials also say that money is easier to transport than goods (which requires money to move) and helps stimulate local economies that may be decimated by natural disasters. “A cash donation helps relief organizations respond in a flexible, timely and cost-efficient manner, ultimately providing greater help to those in need,” the U.S. Agency for International Development Office says on its website. “Cash contributions to established and legitimate relief agencies are always significantly more beneficial than the donation of commodities.”

    Where to give

    Almost all of the local fundraisers mentioned are accepting cash donations at their events. For those unable to attend, the American Red Cross is raising cash specifically for California wildfire relief efforts on their website (from the “I want to support” menu, choose “California Wildfires”) at You can also make a donation of $10 using your phone by texting the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 (the donation will appear on your phone bill). The following charities are also raising money for wildfire relief efforts: GoFundMe, one of the go-to online fundraising tools, has a running list of vetted campaigns that are raising money for Northern California wildfire relief and rebuilding efforts. Links to all campaigns are available on the Express website. For those who want to donate directly to a local organization, the non-profit Charity Navigator website helps verify and vet organizations that are raising funds for wildfire relief efforts. Volunteerism is also a good way to help those affected by recent wildfires. Organizers warn against people simply “showing up” to find out how they can volunteer; instead, those with certain special skills should check out the website of California Volunteers or the American Red Cross to learn about specific volunteer opportunities that are needed. Blood donations are also urgently needed. Shortly after a tragic event, blood banks see an uptick in donations, but sometimes the supply exceeds what’s needed and unused supplies are tossed out. Blood also has a short shelf life — red blood cells have to be used within a month and a half of collection; platelets have to be used within five days — which means donations well after a crisis are needed about as much, if not more, as donations during a crisis (especially considering only 10 percent of eligible people make a yearly donation). The American Red Cross has a running list of local blood drives on its website. Those who want to donate blood without visiting a blood drive can do so at Vitalant (formerly BloodSource) centers in Davis, Fairfield or Napa.
    Do you have a local event that is helping to raise money or solicit donations for those affected by the recent wildfires? Email your event to]]>

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