San Diego Rotarians unite to help victims of devastating fires
After wildfires swept through Southern California in October, Rotarians in and near San Diego brought immediate and long-term relief to fire victims who lost their homes and most of their belongings.
The firestorms destroyed nearly 1,600 homes, caused damages estimated at over $1.2 billion and forced more than half a million residents from their homes.
The Rancho Bernardo neighborhood in San Diego was hit hard by the disaster, with 261 homes burned to the ground. Before the embers died, members of the Rotary Club of Rancho Bernardo Sunrise (San Diego) walked the streets of the fire-weary community, helping families, oftentimes strangers, sift through ash and rubble in hopes of salvaging items. They donated clothes and food and worked with the Red Cross to help coordinate volunteer efforts.
“Rotary became the eyes, ears, and pulse for Rancho Bernardo following the fire,” said club member Jim Roth. “Families who lost everything looked to [us] for leadership and help.”
Four Rancho Bernardo Sunrise club members lost their homes. Among them was Kendra Jeffcoat, whose fellow members opened their doors and let her stay with them. “It wasn’t a surprise at all that Rotary was with me every step of the way. Their support was overwhelming,” Jeffcoat said.
Former club member Mike Miller was also left homeless. The outpouring of practical and emotional support he received from Rotarians so moved him that he decided to rejoin the club.
“There were 22 people from my Rotary club waiting to help me,” Miller said. “You don’t realize how much they mean until you’re faced with your worst situation. Rotarians truly care. It’s phenomenal.”
In Poway, just north of San Diego, city officials asked members of the Rotary Club of Poway to oversee and distribute funds from the community’s fire relief foundation. Rotary clubs across the United States and around the world donated a total of $80,000 to the fund.
Among the beneficiaries were Poway residents Mark and Terry Wery. After their home burned to the ground and, along with it, their home-based elderly care business, the Werys were left with little but a growing stack of unpaid bills. Poway Rotarians helped ease the financial burden, delivering the couple a check for more than $1,200.
“Rotary showed up in a big way,” said Mark Wery. “They are really heart driven. We are extremely grateful for the tremendous help Rotary’s given us. I think all of Poway feels the same way.”
You can purchase this video and watch more Rotary stories in the next RVM: The Rotarian Video Magazine 3.2, due out next month. Learn more about RVM.