Thomas Fire: The best ways to help

Thank you to everyone near and away who has reached out to make sure we are safe. Our hearts are full.

The question we hear the most is, “How can I help?” In the aftermath of spontaneous disasters, many generous community members step up to help those in need around them. One of the challenges of a crisis is mobilizing caring citizens so that they can effectively help their neighbors and neighborhoods. Here are a few of the best ways to help.

If you are in Ventura, please don’t underestimate the value of helping authorities who are working 24/7 to protect us and Ventura. Some of the easiest ways to help are to keep the roads clear for those working to assess the impacts of the fire, keep a safe distance away from evacuation zones, conserve water for ongoing firefighting efforts, and stay informed to help disseminate accurate information. The most updated information can be found at ReadyVenturaCounty.org.

If you are able to volunteer, the Red Cross is actively looking for local volunteers to support the disaster response. Those interested should head to tinyurl.com/ThomasFire to complete an application. After approval, volunteers will be contacted within 24 hours to register for a volunteer shift. Volunteer work ranges from phone calls, data entry and client registration, to shelter support and supply replenishment. With 7 shelters open, help is greatly appreciated. In order of priority, the following shelters need the most help: Oxnard College, UC Santa Barbara, and Ventura County Fairgrounds. Please note that the Red Cross is not encouraging donations of physical goods at this time. Shelters are grateful for the overwhelming response and encourage you to consider a cash donation instead.

Another place in search of volunteers is the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club offering shelter to all horses needing evacuation from the Thomas Fire in Ventura County. Volunteer work includes help feeding, watering, and mucking out the stables of the evacuated horses. Feed and barn supply donations are also appreciated to assist with the effort. Those able to help can contact the Polo Club’s Volunteer Coordinator, Shannon McGraw, at (805) 455-2400.

The Humane Society of Ventura County is in need of donations after taking in more than 300 animals since the fires began Monday. The organization has set up a registry wishlist on Amazon with items needed to care for the diverse group of animals currently in its care. Those unable to bring supplies or food to the shelter can make cash donations on HCVC’s website.

Local chapters of the United Way and Red Cross have teamed up with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services to create the Thomas Fire Fund. 100% of the donations received will support those affected by the Thomas Fire. Those who wish to support may do so online, via phone by calling (805) 485-6288, or by texting UWVC to 41444. Checks may also be mailed to the United Way office at 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003, with “Thomas Fire Fund” written in the memo line.

The Ventura County Community Disaster Relief Fund, created by the Ventura County Community Foundation, supports organizations providing shelter and long-term housing, legal services, education, healthcare and other immediate and long-term needs of those affected by the Thomas Fire. “Long after media attention has shifted away from our community, we will be here, committed to providing support that addresses the most critical needs of our nonprofits and their clients. Individuals affected by this disaster will have a multitude of needs that will change as time goes on. To support the immediate needs of those impacted by the fire, direct your contributions to the Sudden and Urgent Needs Fund. To support the mid- to long-term needs of those impacted by the fire, direct your contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund. More information on both is available here.

While there are many other charities at work, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office reminds residents that charity scams often follow disasters. If you are asked to make a charitable donation to help people in disaster-affected areas, consider these tips:

Donate to charities you know and trust; be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight; do not give out personal or financial information unless you know the charity is reputable; never send cash by mail; be suspicious of random calls requesting a donation; be cautious about clicking on links in emails requesting a donation; check out a charity before you donate by contacting the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance online or at 703-276-0100; and, call the Ventura Police non-emergency number if you suspect a scam at (805) 650-8010.

Canada, Mexico, England, Germany, France, Iceland, Norway, Korea, and Japan. These are just a few of the places from which people have a special connection to Ventura and continue to send their love. Thank you for never letting Ventura feel alone.

Heartfelt wishes to you and yours from your friends at Visit Ventura,

Marlyss Auster, Cheryl Bagby, Michele Gilmour, Mike Laan, Chelsea Soto, Lucas Suarez, Michele Foster, and Fiorella Calderoni

X