The Oak Fire – “I Have Never Asked for Help Before”

August 11, 2022 | by Steve Elliott

The Oak Fire – “I Have Never Asked for Help Before”

Steve Elliott pictured at the LAC with Susan Hunn and Pastor Laura Barnes from El Dorado County Federated Church in Placerville.

It seems so overwhelming when you lose your home.  Traumatizing in so many ways.  And for the Oak Fire, a widespread extended power cutoff expanded the damage footprint to hundreds more households that struggle to make ends meet anyway.
Our Cal-Nev Conference response was to participate for three days at the Local Assistance Center setup at the High School in Mariposa, California.  Our ministry of presence offered a willing ear to listen to stories of escape, fear and now, hope for recovery.  We gave out over $20,000 in gift cards, hygiene kits, cleaning supplies and other survivor assistance.
We were one of many government and non-profit organizations offering a broad array of services and support.  Our participation was staffed by the Conference-wide Early Response Team and local Mariposa UMC volunteers.  Our team included volunteers from seven churches across the Conference.  We assisted 200 households that came to our table. 
Our assistance was funded by the Conference Disaster Response Fund and supplies donated by Conference churches.  Thank you California-Nevada for your generosity!
Among the many stories…
“Zack” had come by our table late the second day when we were out of gift cards.  We talked with him.  He had "turned his life around."  Heard about his many challenges and now, opportunities in life.  I spoke with his boss at the Pioneer Market.  She said he has really changed a lot while working there.  Tons of progress, she said.  Lives in "a shed" and lost all his possessions in the fire.
During one of my many trips to the Market to buy more gift cards, “Zack” was there.  He works as a bagger.  I spoke with him, and he said he would come back on his lunch break at 5pm.  Which he did.  I had saved a gift card for him after we ran out again.  He gave me a big hug and said thank you.  This is what we are doing is all about. –  Steve Elliott
A neatly appearing 60s-ish woman who asked about tools that could be used for sifting through the ashes of her home. While we could send a team to do the sifting for her, she said she wanted to take look through the ruins herself. She was confident, calm, and clearly prepared mentally for what she faced.
When we offered what she needed - a sifting box, shovel, rake, protective clothing, gloves, masks, and hand tools, she beamed with confidence.  Amid her losses was an antique teapot collection. She wanted to see if she could find just one teapot in the rubble. She believed she would. We helped her out with tools of hope.  – Susan Hunn

Steve Elliott serves a the California-Nevada Conference Disaster Response & UMVIM Coordinator (Director).

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