Whom do we serve?

By Ellis Levinson

All you need do is follow an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) in order to learn the stories of people whose lives were dramatically changed by this month’s Northern California wildfires. As those in need of a good meal approach the vehicle for food and water, you can see the gratitude in their faces.

With meal in hand in a clamshell box, Richard Ellis explained, “I graduated from the Salvation Army culinary training,” outside of the Samaritan Shelter in Santa Rosa, where he is now living. The Salvation Army had just placed him in a job as a barista at a café when the business had to close because of smoke damage.

Another family, Dena Smith and her husband, David, were living in a mobile home in Clear Lake when fire swept through the mobile home park. “Propane tanks were exploding in the middle of the night,” she said. So the couple and their two sons escaped in their van, and they found their way to the shelter at the event center at the Twin Pines Casino in Middletown. When that shelter closed down, the Smith family moved on to the Red Cross shelter at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Small bandages on her arms cover the burns Dena had endured. At the fairgrounds, the Smith family received medical care, meals, clothing, shelter, and information on applying for benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Dena happened to be driving past Doyle Park in Santa Rosa when she spotted the ERV distributing meals and water. She is one of the thousands of victims of the fire who are benefitting from the tireless work of Red Cross volunteers and staff.


Lori Wilson and Jim Burns provided editorial support for this story.