TOPPENISH, Wash. -- More than 20 Yakima Valley dairy producers donated $61,800 to the Yakama Nation to aid victims of a fire that devastated the Yakama Indian Reservation town of White Swan on Feb. 12.

The fire destroyed 18 homes, left 120 people homeless and hundreds of others with damaged homes.

Local communities and people farther away responded with aid. Darigold Inc., Seattle, representing its more than 550 dairy farms, donated more than 400 pounds of cheese, 390 pounds of butter and 1,000 bottles of milk.

Dairy Farmers of Washington conducted a food drive March 4 during state high school basketball championships at the SunDome in Yakima. Part of the $2,000 raised in cash and food went to the White Swan victims.

In addition, Yakima dairy farmer Bill Dolsen and Outlook dairy operator Genny DeRutyer spearheaded fundraising among Yakima Valley dairy producers that raised $61,800.

In a ceremony presenting the money at the Yakama tribal headquarters in Toppenish on March 28, victims of the fire talked of their struggle to rebuild and said the donation really helps, said Mark Leader, media relations manager of the Washington Dairy Products Commission in Lynnwood.

Needs in White Swan are ongoing, he said.

-- Dan Wheat

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