Even before the Western Oregon wildfires of 2020 were totally contained and mopped up, donations were pouring in to help individuals and communities that were impacted.
To create a viable receiver for those funds, the Community Rebuilding Fund was established in September 2020. An application, grant and distribution process was also set up.
The rebuilding fund is a partnership between the Oregon Community Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, the Ford Family Foundation and the American Red Cross. The national Red Cross office donated $1.5 million and the other three nonprofits donated $1 million each to spark the fundraising effort. Additional donations have come from individuals, families, businesses, corporations and foundations.
The goal was to raise $10 million. As of mid-September 2021, the total raised was $9.3 million.
As of August 2021, grants totaling nearly $4.5 million have been awarded to support 40 organizations in eight Oregon counties that suffered from the 2020 wildfires. On Sept. 15, the rebuilding fund awarded grants totaling just under $1.5 million to 15 more community-based organizations to help their areas recover from the fire damage.
The plan is to give out the $10 million by the end of this year.
“A year ago, devastating fires ripped through our forests and towns, and Oregonians responded quickly and generously,” said Max Williams, CEO of the Oregon Community Foundation, in a press release. “In one year, the 2020 Community Rebuilding Fund has raised and deployed millions of dollars to support fire-impacted communities throughout Oregon.”
Money was distributed for several purposes, including buying tools, construction materials and household items, supporting fire and rescue groups and centers, rental assistance, leadership and administrative help, local contractors and mental health services.
Organizations receiving grants must turn in reports in a year on how the money was spent.
“The needs are great and are wide-ranging,” said Melissa Freeman, OCF’s director of Strategic Projects. Freeman is managing the rebuilding fund and the grant process. “We have listened to community concerns and identified places where state and federal resources were not available or where there were gaps. We’ve awarded these grants where we felt they would make the most impact.
“We’ve been so humbled by the generosity of those who have donated,” Freeman added.
While grants have been awarded to those impacted by the 2020 fires that burned over 1 million acres in Oregon, destroyed thousands of homes and killed several people, Freeman said strategies are underway to help those impacted by the Bootleg Fire that recently burned through Klamath and Lake counties in July and August. One grant has already been presented to the Bly Community Action Team.
“We would encourage people to reach out to the foundations, explaining their needs related to the Bootleg Fire,” said Freeman. “We know people and structures were impacted. Fewer people were involved (than during the 2020 wildfires) so there has been less communication. We need people to tell us what the needs are and how we can help.”
Fundraising is continuing toward the $10 million goal for the Community Rebuilding Fund.
“Every dime helps,” Freeman said. “We appreciate any donations that come in. The needs continue to be really, really great.”
Those interested in making donations can go online to the Community Rebuilding Fund website to get details on how to contribute.