Our View: 49 Fire relief money must get to needy quickly

Our View
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Relief is in sight for some 49 Fire victims, and it can’t come a moment too soon. Some 2-1/2 months after the devastating fire ravaged North Auburn neighborhoods, the community’s post-fire generosity will be channeled through two relief organizations — Salvation Army and Auburn Faith-Based Recovery Collaborative. The two groups will work together to identify the neediest victims and distribute $40,000 in donations secured by the Auburn Disaster Relief Fund committee. The committee announced Monday they would turn over the funds to the two groups for grants to fire victims. While it took much too long for relief committee members to make their decision, they got it right. Salvation Army and the collaborative have experience in assessing economic need in a social services framework. As disaster committee member Bruce Cosgrove admitted, “(these) are people in the community who truly know what they are doing” when it comes to relief assistance, rather than the panel of businesspeople and bankers on the committee. The organizations must now move carefully but quickly to distribute the money — all of it. Salvation Army reportedly has a list of 50 fire victims they are tracking, and the collaborative is sure to have more. We suggest a two- or three-step funding process, maybe in the form of monthly grants in December, January and February. The neediest fire victims could receive emergency funding in all three months, while those less disadvantaged would get one-time aid grants. Income and fire damage are two criteria to consider, but so is the human impact. Some victims have been hurt financially, but have the monetary means over time to recover. Others might be on the brink of collapse, even if their economic injuries weren’t nearly as large. As a caring community, it’s important to make that distinction, and funnel the funding to those who need it most. That was the intention of hundreds, if not thousands, of residents who gave directly and indirectly following the Aug. 30 fire that destroyed some 63 homes and three businesses, damaged scores more and caused $40 million in damage. Placer High School students raised thousands of dollars with a barbecue. Auburn Recreation District organized an all-day concert that generated $6,500. Pancake breakfasts, penny drives, golf tournaments … the list went on and on Auburn residents found inventive new ways to raise money. Some of the more than $100,000 raised community-wide went directly to Salvation Army and the Red Cross, but the disaster relief fund became a necessary holding tank for myriad efforts. The community trusted the committee — and now it’s time for those affected to be trustworthy as well. If you were impacted significantly by the 49 Fire and are in desperate need of economic relief, contact the Salvation Army at (530) 889-3990. Trust that the group will balance your interest with the community’s. But if you were one of the fortunate victims to have adequate insurance and the means to recover, take the position of Dave Mays, who lost his home. “I’m not in that desperate of a situation,” he said. “I know other people who were part of the fire who didn’t have insurance and don’t have a family.” And if you weren’t affected directly by the fire and would like contribute, the Auburn Disaster Relief Fund accepts donations at Community 1st Bank, 649 Lincoln Way in Auburn. Auburn came together in the wake of the 49 Fire. It’s appropriate it remain together in continuing to care for those who lost the most.