When the Boles Fire started on September 15, 2014, it quickly swept through the community of Weed, CA, devastating this small community of just under 3,000 residents. By the time it was over, more than 150 homes were lost and 516 acres were burned.
United Way of Northern California, partnering with surrounding local United Ways and local corporate partners including TriCounties Bank, US Bank, and Roseburg Forest Products, responded quickly to the community needs by establishing two relief funds - a general community fund and a fund specific to the employees of one of the town's largest employers - Roseburg Forest Products.
In just 25 days, we were able to raise over $300,000 to support the relief efforts and needs of the community members affected. Because of the nature of this disaster, United Way of Northern California made the decision to not charge any administrative fees for managing these funds. This ensured that 100% of the generous donations would go directly to assist those affected by the fire.
UWNC’s distributions were made in close consultation with the community-based Weed Long Term Recovery Group. and requests funded included salary support for reconstruction team case workers; equipment and labor for clean-up crews; fire-fighting equipment, fire extinguishers and fire safety classes; and support for community events such as a fundraising barbecue and the annual Harvest Carnival. In October 2017 the Board of Directors of United Way of Northern California approved disbursement of the remaining $105,608 in the agency’s Boles Fire Relief Fund, to help finance rebuilding of the City of Weed’s Community Center. The Community Center will include a main event hall, recreation room, exercise gym, pool and spa, dance studio, conference rooms and commercial kitchen. The total cost of the project is $4.2 million. Insurance proceeds and contributions from the McConnell and Ford foundations provided the bulk of the funding. The building is expected to open in the summer of 2018.
UWNC’s fund was part of a broad response to the wildfire by government agencies, the nonprofit sector and the community at large. Shasta Regional Community Foundation established a Community Disaster Relief Fund that raised $641,356 for Boles Fire survivors, ultimately granting $72,512 in support for the Community Center rebuild. “We are pleased and proud to stand with the many outstanding organizations that stepped up to support the community after this devastating incident,” said Larry Olmstead, President & CEO of United Way of Northern California. “The Weed Recreation and Parks District is creating a Community Center that will stand as a permanent symbol of the town’s resilience and spirit.”
United Way is proud to stand at the ready to not only support the ongoing needs of our communities, but to be responsive to emerging needs as they arise. When the community comes together to support a common goal, like what was demonstrated by the response to the Boles Fire, amazing things can happen.
When we each give a little, whether that is in the form of monetary donations, in-kind donations, or volunteer hours, we can accomplish more than we ever could alone.
That's the power of the United Way - that's what it means to LIVE UNITED!