As deadly wildfires swept across the state last week and forced many people to flee their homes, Grant County sprung into action in a variety of different ways to help the tens of thousands of evacuees.
The community, in less than a week, opened up four drop-off locations and created a Facebook group with more than 2,000 members from around the country.
According to a press release last week, Grant County Sheriff’s Office utilizes the office as a drop off site for personal hygiene items, such as deodorant, toothpaste, razors, shaving cream, socks, T-shirts and undergarments in new condition. The office is also accepting non-perishable food items and gift cards.
Palmer said, due to the sheriff’s office’s size, it cannot accept clothing items.
Canyon Creek Community 4-H Club is gathering donations that can be dropped off at Pioneer Feed and Farm Supply. Club leader Laura Brown said only new items can be accepted to prevent spreading COVID-19.
She said personal hygiene items, clothes, blankets, pillows, pet food and non-perishable food, such as canned goods are accepted.
Pioneer Feed and Farm Supply owner Courtney Fox said plastic tote storage containers are very helpful for people who have just lost a home and are carrying their belongings with them from place to place.
Brown said tents are very much in demand and that a used tent, provided it is in decent condition, would be accepted.
The club is also accepting monetary donations for people to purchase basic necessities, she said. Brown said checks can be made out to Canyon Creek Community 4H Club.
Brown said the club is debating on how or where they will distribute the money and donations they receive. She said right now the club is trying to collect as many donations as they can.
“We don’t really have a end date,” Brown said. “We’re just trying to get as much as we can to make a good load.”
Brown said she really wants the members of the club to deliver the donations to the drop-off location the group decides on.
“It’s important for the kids to see what good deeds can do,” she said. “You know, that they understand there’s a bigger picture involved with everything they do. We’re obviously not going to be touring any of the devastated areas, but being able to follow through and drop off donations and see the other volunteers and evacuees will give them a bigger scope of the picture.”
The Squeeze-In Restaurant and Deck is accepting dog and cat food for displaced pets. The owner, Shawn Duncan, said Candy Olson-Reagan donated her trailer to be parked on the side of the restaurant, and once it is full, it will be “driven to wherever it is needed the most.”
“We’re taking care of our furry friends too,” Olson-Reagan said.
Olson-Reagan, who started the 2020 Oregon Fire Aid and Assistance Facebook group last week, said it grew exponentially in just a few days.
“Suddenly all these people just started joining, and it just sort of took off from there,” she said.
Olson-Reagan said the page’s administrators include John Day resident Patti Ross, Lori Brown of Vancouver and Becky Smallwood of Bend.
Ross said she has made sure the page stays apolitical. So far, she said, she has only had to kick one person off the page for spreading disinformation that places the blame of the wildfires in the region on Antifa, short for “anti-fascists” and an umbrella term for leftist militant groups that confront or resist far-right, white supremacist groups, often with violence.
The rumors were debunked by law enforcement officials in Molalla — a city south of Portland where residents were evacuated as two fires were merging — and in Douglas County an area south of Eugene with at least four fires burning, Portland’s KOIN-TV reported.
“How does that help someone who just lost everything and has nowhere to go,” Ross said.
Olson-Reagan said before the start of the Facebook group she had “lost faith in humanity” because of how divided the country has become along political, social and cultural lines.
“This has shown me, and probably a lot of other people, that we have not lost our faith, we haven’t lost humanity, we’re still together,” she said. “People are helping without asking, are you Republican, are you conservative, are you a liberal. They don’t care whether you’re gonna vote for Trump or for Biden — they want to help.”