Oct 24, 2017
By Patty Ginochio
Around 2 am I started to get Nixle messages for evacuation on my phone. I then looked out my window overlooking Schoolhouse and Portuguese Beach in Bodega Bay. All I could see were headlights.
Around sunrise, I began to see the true extent. Cars after car was streaming into Bodega Bay to escape the fire. This was the first wave of evacuations. I stopped and spoke to them, many there since the first evacuation. They were cold and hungry. Trying to conserve the fuel in their tank for warmth and future needs. Most all were Latino. We invited them into Ginochio's Kitchen to stand by the fireplace and receive a meal. I have personally never made some much coffee and hot chocolate in my life!
I have trained with Bodega Bay CERT under Linda Stout, President and Mike Osborne for many years. I am on the Board where I manage the Disaster Sheds and we do Disaster Drills regularly. I am also a HAM Radio Operator. BB has over 80 licensed HAM Radio operators which was crucial during the initial stage of the fires as communication such as the internet and phones were overloaded.
We then mobilized Bodega Bay. TheBodega Bay Grange was opened by Merlin and Michelle Kolb and Michael and Diana Bundy, with permission on Grange President Jim Moore. They made a large hand-made sign declaring the grange an Evacuation Center and people started pouring in. The first day they had over 500 evacuees into the Grange and provided warmth, food and coffee.
Then newly formed Waves of Compassion Foundation began the relief effort coordination. President Carolyn Connors, VP Lira Filippini and myself, ex officio of the Board became Central Command. We were able to quickly organize food from Don King and Melissa Freeman of The Birds Cafe; Sophie and Rick Powers fromThe Boat House; Audrey ArmasandAnna Taylor from Blue Water Bistro Restaurant in Bodega Bay, Ceres Project began sending food as well with support from Backyard Restaurant. It was quickly brought out to Doran Beach County Park where the largest gathering was. Camp Host Ron Pedrioli at Bodega Dunes Campground was warm and welcoming throughout this ordeal. The Grange was now officially "Central Command" run by myself and Lira.
Local Heroes of Tami Pennington, MysticDoodles; Amanda Bryant,Eclectic Amanda; Jim Moore; Julie Schneider,First Republic; Pastor Pat Sparks,Bodega Bay Community Church; Denise Tarver; Bodega Bay School; Sissy & Bob Blanchard, Gourmet Au Bay; local CHP Officers Quentin Shanks and Sheriff Jerry Turney, Daniel Rohlfing; Marta Kaltider; Michael and Diana Bundy; Alice Pickton, and Carol Anello of Spud Point Crab Co. who took lots of clam chowder to the campgrounds for the folks who were freezing! And let’s no forget Glenn Kantock of All Seasons Firewood who came in from Windsor with truck loads of firewood for cold campers! I’m sure we don’t have everyone’s names so want to THANK every hero who came forth to help with pet food to clothing.
Waves of Compassion funded all initial efforts, money that had been donated to start a food pantry for Bodega Bay residents. We were barely a Non-Profit and had just received our IRS status as a fully-fledged 501c3 a few days before.
Donors began pouring in of every kind. So many that we couldn't take anymore. Folks were driving up from all over California to Bodega Bay donating truckloads of items. Monday night, it was around 12:30 in the morning, a convoy from Sacramento pulled into the Grange. 7 truckloads of donated items. They drove thru the night to Bodega Bay!
The storyline though became: all the undocumented are in Bodega Bay. Simply not the case, it was humans, polite and humble with nowhere to go. Most lost their homes, many had the stench of smoke and ash on their faces. Fear and shock, especially amongst the children. At the Grange we set up a child center to keep them busy using all the toys donated. Bi-lingual speakers, doctors, nurses, grief counselors and so much more was provided. We had 60 evacuees in the Grange overnight, then 50 at the Bodega Bay Church. Down went the tables and up went the cots, blankets and pillows. Snoring was a requirement. Repeated daily.
Amanda Bryant was our Doran Beach hero. She literally has been out there overseeing the shelter we mobilized since Day 1. County Parks was so supportive and welcomed evacuees.
State Parks then annouced the parks were free for evacuees but they had nothing set up to care for them. Waves of Compassion stepped in and provided food, shelter, camping gear and love to them. Over 100 camp sites! Unfortunately State Parks then decided it was time for them to not be there so they walked around and requested them to find other shelter. They are still open and free but because they required us to remove all support we had placed there, the evacuees are on their own. It has been viewed quite negatively. A BBQ company was going to come in and cook but State Parks said no.
So we managed the Grange, the Bodega Bay Church, Doran Beach, Chanslor Ranch and all beaches up the coast by providing everything they needed to stay warm, fed and clothed.
Cea Higgins organized a group of volunteers to pick up trash from our beaches at the request of Waves of Compassion. I could see it beginning to pile up and with a simple phone call, she took action.
Halfway through the week, they dynamic changed. Mostly caucasions are here now. The Latinos were still fearful of ICE. Reporters constantly trying to get an angle on their plight caused many to go into hiding. We had to stop photographers who came by the dozens from taking pictures in the shelters as we children in protective custody and also undocumented. Some tried to sneak in... They were shown the door quickly.
Now we no longer have anyone staying in the shelter as it has turned into a KMART with everything you could imagine for the evacuees to come in and take whatever they needed. We are also starting to help with laundry services.
Linda headed up the food delivery by Blue Water Bistro, as well as approved our CERT Disaster Sheds contents for use for the initial wave. She was my rock at Doran! She has been my mentor in all things disaster for the training I had to pull this off.
John Hershey was everywhere, not only taking pictures but also volunteering at the Grange!
Diana Bundy was our communication liason getting all messages out to email lists and locals for supplies and where donations could be made. We simply could not have helped as many folks if it wasn't for her. Hour after hour, day after day we depended on her to help us. Key and critical support.
Phil and Jean Warren, Alice and Shay Pickton, Francesca Scalpi (she delivered all the food in BB).
Our Firefighters were our heroes! They played a huge part in our success as well.
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