Red Cross welcomes a growing partnership with Corazón Healdsburg

This is another in a series of stories we are posting on this regional blog related to the American Red Cross response to the Kincade Fire disaster:

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Corazon Healdsburg bilingual volunteers (left) Norma Gomez and Luisa Fernandez-Palacios staff a desk inside the evacuation shelter at the Sonoma County Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa on Oct. 30. Photo credit: American Red Cross|Barbara Wood

Local nonprofit and Red Cross partner Corazón Healdsburg offered a crucial point of contact for Latinx families during the Kincade Fire. The organization staffed Red Cross shelters in Sonoma and Marin counties with bilingual volunteers. They met with displaced Spanish-speaking families or those who were adversely affected. For some, it was the only point of contact with whom they felt comfortable.

Since 2016, Corazón Healdsburg has worked diligently in the Latinx community to create resources and a safety net for low-income families to thrive. Their programs range from financial literacy to first-generation college counseling. So when disaster struck, many in the community already knew where to go: The Healdsburg Community Center.

On most days, the Healdsburg Community Center is a multipurpose space offering programs and services from the Healdsburg Parks and Recreation Department. It also houses Corazón Healdsburg. When the Kincade Fire struck and before Healdsburg was evacuated, it served as the first shelter to open to the displaced. Then, following the response, the center opened its doors for the county-led Local Assistance Center.

That’s when the rubber met the road with Corazón.

Lines stretched around the block for days as families queued for an opportunity to meet with the local agency. 

Leticia Romero, Director of Community Engagement for Corazón Healdsburg, said staff had mobilized since the night of the fire and worked with their community partners to ensure client families had food and somewhere safe to sleep. “We’ll be here until there is no more line,” she said.

During the disaster and immediately following, Red Cross leadership met at length with leaders from Corazón Healdsburg to address issues from shelter protocols to disaster preparedness in the future. Both organizations look forward to a growing partnership that can address the needs of the Latinx community in even more comprehensive ways.

Corazón Healdsburg’s presence at Red Cross shelters, and more broadly in the community, are a testament to their grassroots work and commitment to the Latinx community. The Red Cross relies on partners like these to deepen and magnify a disaster response so that no one is left behind.