The Chance to Serve and Make a Difference

Wildfire Relief, 26/10/2017 

The Chance to Serve and Make a Difference
By Katie Hosking 10.25.17

Driving from St. Dominic’s church parking lot in San Francisco, we drove the UHaul filled with donations from the Order of Malta collection effort.  Our first stop was to the Redwood food bank in Santa Rosa. We arrived to find happy, welcoming and organized volunteers collecting and piling imperishable foods onto wooden pallets. The volunteers were composed of teenage girls, fathers, baseball coaches, lunch ladies, and everything in between; some of whom had lost their homes or jobs to the flames, all of whom felt the loss for someone close to them. Our 20×12 UHaul was graciously welcomed, and volunteers immediately lined up behind the truck to pass the packages of water, canned food, and pet kibble down the line, creating mounds of food one pallet after another. The Food bank was out of cardboard boxes, so we were happy to unload and leave them with the rest of our unused, neatly folded cardboard boxes. You might’ve thought it was Christmas at the food bank, as a number of volunteers cheered ad high fived, declaring that the influx of boxes just made their following days significantly easier.

The second stop was at the Free Store in Healdsburg, a warehouse lined to its edges with aisles of almost every kind of household item one could imagine. Workers quietly hummed throughout the huge warehouse from aisle to aisle, sorting and cleaning the used items. A few members of the Order met us there, where they helped us to unload about half of the boxes remaining in the truck. The volunteers there were aghast at the amount of new/unused, lovely items that we left with them, and made sure to let us know how many families’ Christmases would made.

The last stop we made was in Cloverdale, where a plant nursery had been transformed into an emergency donation center. There were about ten scattered volunteers, only a few who spoke English; all of whom had lost their homes, and many of whom were sleeping and residing in the nursery-turned-donation-center. Carrying the first set of boxes in, we spotted a little boy curled up asleep on one of the couches. His mom was standing behind him. She thanked us profusely, then patted the back of the couch lightly, telling us that her little one was getting used to his new bed and she hoped he wouldn’t be in the way. Little two, four and six year olds were helping, carrying loads of toilet paper and paper towels from the truck. The items inside the donation center were few in number and significantly dilapidated. Seeing not only the amount of items but the quality of them, many of the volunteers were overwhelmed. Each box we brought inside was matched with what felt like hundreds of thank you’s and tears from the volunteers.