One family won’t forget Red Cross’ shelter assistance
By Mauri Shuler
As the firestorm swept through the California wine country, the entire town of Calistoga was evacuated and many residents, including at least a thousand agricultural workers, drove to the Red Cross shelter in Napa.
Among them was Jose, who left with his wife and three daughters and only the clothes on their backs. They stayed in a Red Cross shelter for four days before getting the green light to return home. “We had everything we needed and felt safe and secure while we were there,” Jose said.
Now, life is returning to normal. Jose is back at work in a vineyard and winery near Calistoga, where he has been employed for 26 years. He and his friends have all been loyal employees and are extremely proud of their work record, as is their employer. While at the shelter, they frequently said how lucky they were to have survived and, of course, grateful the vineyard was spared from the fire and they can get back to work.
It’s harvest season and these cabernet grapes will be picked within days. Others are already being crushed and prepared for the award-winning wine they produce here.
Jose’s wife also works, as a housekeeper for five homeowners. Unfortunately, two of the houses she cleans were burned to the ground. Their three girls are all back in school now, and Jose says they have talked about their recent experience with the children.
“They are glad they had the experience,” he said. “The girls all say it made them better prepared for any future crisis we may have to go through. They said, ‘Dad, we won’t ever panic and we will know what to take with us in an emergency.’”
Jose and his family have always donated small amounts to the Red Cross and now, he says, his children understand why.
“Now they know where their donations went. I tell them, we had cots, blanket, and pillows to sleep at night. We had all the food we needed to sustain us. All of that money, I tell them, came from donations from people like us.”
“The friendships we made with the Red Cross volunteers,” he adds, “those were free.”
Beth Eurotas and Jim Burns provided editorial support for this story.