Community collaborating to support Greater Winters area residents

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Many Winters businesses and organizations are pulling together in a community-wide effort to support residents who lost their homes.

The Greater Winters Fire Relief Fund is a local collaborative effort to collect monetary donations (cash, check or gift cards) and basic necessities (clothing, toiletries, and more) to distribute to residents living in the greater Winters area who were impacted by the LNU Lightening Complex fire that blazed through the area week.

Winters Parent Nursery School held a donation drop off on Monday to collect items (clothing, toiletries, blankets, diapers, and more) at their schoolhouse. Their Board of Directors are leading shifts of community volunteers to help sort through the items so that families in need can shop through the items.

WPNS Director Ciara Hapworth-Eldridge said they launched the opportunity so that we could gather resources, and give back to the community that is always there to support in.

“Winters has had wildfires almost every summer the last five summers, but this fire is on a whole other level. So many structures, and homes have been destroyed. Families had such little time to evacuate that many only left with the clothes on their backs,” said Hapworth-Eldridge. “Two of our three teachers were evacuated from their homes, and during that time the sense of not knowing what you are coming home to is unbearable, let alone coming to find your home gone.”

Amy Sartin, WPNS Vice President, added that the efforts are a representation of who Winters is as a community.

We are strongest when we unite in times like this,” said Sartin. “Every time there has been a hardship locally, we have seen our town step up. This time is no different.”
Hapworth-Eldridge said what started out as a small effort to help families in the rural community in need turned into a bigger effort when they joined up with the Rotary Club of Winters.
With the help of Rotarians volunteers the school house yard quickly filled with donated items, including a donation from the Yolo Food Bank of toiletries, cleaning supplies, diapers and other non-essentials.

Although overwhelmed with items, they are still collecting totes and luggage donations so families can carryout their findings. To donate totes or luggage contact them at wintersparentnurseryschool@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wintersparentnurseryschool.

Families and individuals in need can contact WPNS at the above to set up a shopping time to pick out clothes and other items currently at their school house.

The Winters Rotary is leading the financial side of the local efforts.

They have teamed up with the City of Winters and the Winters Chamber of Commerce to collect cash, checks and gift card donations.

To donate to the relief fund, visit First Northern Bank and let them know you’d like to donate to the Winters Rotary Foundation Fire Fund.

Donation collection points are stationed at Buckhorn Steakhouse, Pacific Ace Hardware, First Northern Bank, Steady Eddy’s and Turkovich Family Wines.

Donations can also be made directly by mailing a check to: Rotary Club of Winters Foundation, P.O. Box 565, Winters, CA 95694. Make checks payable to: Rotary Club of Winters Foundation.A donation link is also set up on the Rotary Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WintersRotary.

All donations are tax deductible.

Councilmember Jesse Loren is part of the leadership team working with Jessica Hubbard, Executive Director at Yolo Community Foundation. The two were tasked with researching the size of the need from those with Winters addresses and to determine an estimate of how many are from Yolo County and how many are from Solano County so that an appropriate sized response can be mounted.  While the majority of loss is in Solano County, Loren said The Greater Winters Fire Relief Fund will focus on those who are from Greater Winters.
“As leaders who have worked with other fire emergencies such as the Camp Fire, we realize this is more of a marathon than a sprint,” Loren said. “It would help if organizations and other local leaders shared the information with their networks.”
In addition to WPNS’s collaboration with Yolo Food Bank, there are many other local businesses working to help provide support.
The Farmer’s Closet is collecting gently used items and assisting in the relief effort. The Buckhorn is providing limited menu items for Greater Winters people who have been impacted by the fire and are posting daily updates on the Winters community Facebook groups.
“This is who we are, a community that comes together to help others. I couldn’t be more proud of my town or Winters Fire Department,” Loren said.
City Agencies Hard at Work
City agencies have also been working hard.
Loren said the Winters Fire Department has been on non-stop duty since a week ago Sunday.
“Not only were they notifying evacuees and fighting what they could fight, they back-burned along road 34 and collaborated with other  fire departments to extend the back-burn all the way to County Road 20,” Loren said. “Our first responders are stretched to capacity.  The Fire Department, Interim City Manager Shelly Gunby and Winters Police Department have been working with OES on getting accurate information to the public on the fires, evacuations, and on safety.”
Mayor Wade Cowan said now that the president has signed a “Major disaster declaration“ for California more doors have been opened for those effected.
“Our Winters neighbors who live in Solano County will want connect with the LAC (Local Assistance Center) in Solano, it will have all the federal, state, and local agencies as well as insurance companies all in one place,” Cowan said. “We are anticipating that this may be done virtually do to COVID. The city will push all of this info as soon as we get it.”
The Winters Post Office is also working to assist those who live in the areas impacted by the fires and road closures.
Residents who have lost their homes or who have questions should call the Winters Post Office at 530-795-3958. They can arrange to have their mail held for now or to forward to a different address for the time being.
Where is Greater Winters Considered

Loren said Winters is, and has always been a hub for unincorporated Winters.

“Our City boundaries to the West and South are Dry Creek and Putah Creek, but that boundary doesn’t reflect who we are as a community. Winters borders are fuzzy borders,” she said. “For example, Winters City residents pay school bond fees for Solano Community College as we are in the Solano Community College District, but city residents don’t reside in Solano County.”

The Winters Joint Unified School District service area reaches far into Yolo and Solano County to serve unincorporated Winters residents living there. Loren said Greater Winters families can live in either county.

“Pleasants Valley Road,  Putah Creek Road, Digger Pine, Canal, Positas, Central Lane, they might be 10 minutes from downtown, or in Solano County, but still have a Winters address and zip code,” Loren said. “These residents support our businesses, work in our stores, teach in our schools and are part of our community. The LNU Complex Fire destroyed many of the homes of the outer Winters community and has displaced families that contribute and benefit from the wellbeing of Winters.”

Cowan said thankfully there weren’t any property losses within the city limits, but unfortunately many of our friends, family, and neighbors living out in Yolo and Solano counties that have Winters addresses have suffered devastating losses.

“They have always been considered part of Winters and we will do all we can to support them. We must also include the Frazier family, long time Winters residents, who have suffered the loss of Markley Cove up at Lake Berryessa,” Cowan said. “Even though Markley is located In Napa County they have always been a major economic driver for Winters, and we want to do all we can to help them get back up and running as soon as possible.”

The Express is working on a listing of active GoFundMe accounts created to support residents living in the unincorporated Winters areas. The plan is to post the link to the Express Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WintersExpress.

While there is debate regarding how far out the boundaries are to be considered “living in Winters,” Loren says they all do.

“The Greater Winters Fire Relief Fund was created to serve those families. These families have always been a vibrant part of our community – going to our schools, shopping  and dining in our community and volunteering with our local agencies and groups. Their losses are also our losses,” Loren said.

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