Small kindnesses make the biggest differences

by Kathleen Maclay, Red Cross volunteer

A tired Rose Santana went from table to table at the crowded Local Assistance Center (LAC) in Lucerne on Monday. She was looking for help and getting it.  Signing up for Social Security, getting a temporary ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles, learning she needed a letter confirming she had lived in a motorhome on a friend’s Upper Lake land off White Rock Canyon Road from which she evacuated due to the Mendocino Complex Fire.

Santana, 64 and a Lake County resident since 1991, needed one more thing: a place to store her belongings – all contained in two rolling suitcases and a duffle bag.

43316393174_6642419c4e_bA Red Cross caseworker made her day with a seemingly small act of problem-solving: she made arrangements for Santana to keep her things — tagged and safe —in the lost-and-found section of the Lucerne Senior Center hosting the LAC. Santana’s relief was visible.

“This is huge,” she said. “Otherwise I would have to two rolling bags and a duffle to carry all the way to Lakeport.”

The 14 miles from Lucerne to Lakeport might be a leisurely drive along the banks of Clear Lake for many. But for Santana, who has no vehicle, having to schlep along the baggage would add immensely to a long, hot walk to a friend’s there.

Generally, she likes to walk. And she’s been doing a lot of it since her initial evacuation from the motorhome she lived in on a friend’s land when flames got dangerously close the last weekend in July.  She got a lift from there to a friend’s in Upper Lake proper after getting the news on the radio to clear out.

Then another evacuation led her to the Nice Park for only about 90 minutes before yet another order to get out because of the fire. A sheriff’s deputy gave her and others a ride to Lucerne Park, where she spent the night outside on a blanket. The next day the orphan who grew up in foster homes walked from Lucerne to the Moose Lodge, where she heard there was a shelter for evacuees.

Santana stayed for several days before winding up at Red Cross shelters at Middletown High School and then Twin Pine.  She didn’t have anything to carry until then, but when evacuation orders were lifted and shelters closed, she found herself with donated clothing, a tent, bedding, toiletries and snacks that she packed into suitcases given to her at a Middletown senior center.

“Everything I own now has been donated,” said Santana, who expressed gratitude to those who helped her in this trying time, and for the Red Cross for taking some pressure off by enabling her to keep her new-found things in Lucerne until the end of Tuesday.

“I’m so thankful,” she said.