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Starting over after the Thomas Fire

$22,523 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 223 people in 19 months
Created December 6, 2017
As most of you know, the “Thomas Fire” is leaving quite a dent on the Ojai/Ventura area. Unfortunately our sister Becca, her partner Donny, and our little niece Birdie lost their home and all of their possessions to the fire Monday night. They didn’t have time to take anything material so they will be starting over from scratch while trying to keep some sort of routine in Baby Birdie’s life. Like Becca says, It sounds cliché but it’s absolutely true that they have their lives and that is the most important thing. That being said, they will need to begin rebuilding from the ground up, and they need our help.

If you are able and willing to contribute monetarily, anything you can spare would be very much appreciated by our family.
Amazon and Target gift cards are also an easy way to get them the supplies they need.
We know it’s Christmastime and money is tight so any sort of gesture is cherished as our family is in need of a Christmas miracle.❤️
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Here is an update from Becca.:
“It has been almost 5 months since the fire. Since then, so much, and so little has happened. We are still looking for a place to call home. The rental market, as you may be aware, has skyrocketed, and in the Ojai/Ventura area it sadly has been gouged since the fires. I heard of this happening in Napa and hoped it wouldn't happen here, but that's how it goes. THANK GOODNESS FOR YOU ALL who have contributed because your donations have been crucial to this recovery. The outpouring of support has given us hope when we needed it (we still need it), and the funds 100% made it possible for us to continue to do things like pay bills on time, eat food, and put gas in our car when we were not able to return to Ojai and work. THANK YOU. The plans for the rest of the funds are to help us pay rent for when we do eventually find a home, and then furnish that home. None of that would have been possible without you. Again, THANK YOU.
Despite this, things are still looking grim, I am sorry to say. Most 2 bedroom houses we have seen listed for rent cost more than twice what we were paying. We have started to look for one bedrooms, which are still at least 70% more.
We did find one home right after the fire that we thought would work for us. It was a 2 bedroom house with a yard, in pretty bad shape. It had a rat problem, many windows were stuck, it looked as if it had not been cleaned in a couple of years (I'll spare you those particular details), had cracks in the walls, needed a full paint job, and the stained carpet smelled like musty wet dog. Desperate as we were, we decided we could fix it up and make do. Donny and I put many work hours and some $ into the place over the course of about a week. When it came time to tear up the old carpet, our friend stopped by to give us a painting quote. As Donny tore it up, the smell in the house became stronger and unbearable. (My nose swelled and didn't recover for a week or more.) Our friend said, "I remember this place. My son lived here about 3 years ago and I remember that smell." It wasn't wet dog, it was mold. The next day, I did a mold test and it came up positive for black mold. I let the landlord know and asked if he wanted to fix it, because that is beyond our capability. He decided, instead, to not acknowledge its existence. We asked for our money back and he wouldn't give it to us. Long story short, too late, in the end we were required to put things back the way they were, repaint to the color he wanted, and we were still changed rent until that work was completed. As you can imagine, this heart-aching setback did nothing for our spirits and optimism. Even more unfortunately, every place we have seen in our price range since then has also had that same type of unhealthy mold present.
The very bright side to all of this, is that just after the fire we were contacted by an Ojai couple who has a guest house on their property and offered us to stay through January. When this moldy rat house debacle was happening, they were very helpful to us and offered to extend our stay and let us rent through July. If it were not for these wonderful people, I honestly don't know what we would have done. So, we are currently in a safe, clean, beautiful place with a big yard that Birdie has been thoroughly enjoying. WHEW.
We are not the only ones to be going through this same thing. Most people we know displaced by the fire are having similar problems finding a new home, all the while dealing with PTSD symptoms that make even low stress situations seem insurmountable at times. As the world goes on and forgets, as often happens, "victims" of natural disasters and other debilitating occurrences are still in it. We are very much still in it. Remember Hurricane Harvey? I do. I had just sent a bunch of clothes to Texas right before this fire happened. Oh - that's another thing you may not know... There will always be enough clothes. I promise. The world has too many. What people really need in times like these are gift cards, donations, kind encouraging words, and a place to live, heal and start over.
Love you all! THANK YOU!”
We grow through our experiences. And water.
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Message from Becca: "Hi, everyone. We are overwhelmed with the love and support we are receiving. We have had so many calls, texts, and donations it feels impossible to thank everyone individually. So if you have not heard from us, please know how grateful we are for your support. This is not the easiest time in our lives, and staying positive is crucial. All the love you send makes all the difference to us. THANK YOU THANK YOU.
After a week in Santa Monica with Howard (our friend and owner of the farm Donny manages), we are currently staying near Calabasas with my dad's cousin and her husband. The air in Ojai is still too smoky to return, but as soon as the air is consistently good, we will be moving into a guest house through the end of January. We are currently looking for a longterm place to live, and plan to find that in either Ojai or Ventura.

The morning of the fire, Birdie stayed home with the babysitter and played in her sandbox while I went to the doctor and then got all our Christmas decorations out of storage. I set up the Christmas tree, lights and stockings while she napped. When she woke up, she was so excited to see it all. It was one of the sweetest moments she and I have had in that house. Dad came home in the evening, I cooked dinner and then went off to work while Dad put her to bed. I was seeing a client who lived a couple of miles down the street from us. As I was carrying my massage table into their house, I saw the full red moon in the sky. I thought, "Wow, it's a lunar eclipse!" About 15 minutes into the session, my client's baby woke up and she went to tend to her. For the next 15 minutes, I was on my phone looking at the news and realizing that the moon was red from fire, not an eclipse. Then we started to smell smoke in the house. We decided to end the session early, and I went straight to Target to buy an air purifier. There was some ash in the air, falling like a snow flurry. We thought, "the fire is 25 miles away, so we are safe but it will be smoky." As I was in the store, the power went out, but I was still able to purchase the air purifier. The parking lot was pitch black, the street lights were all out. I realized I needed gas but the gas stations were all closed - someone told me the power was out all the way to Camarillo (20 miles away.) So, I just drove home. Donny was still awake (around 10:45 pm), which is rare indeed. He had heard that the fire was moving into the East End of Ojai, so we called our friend who was visiting the farm for the evening and told him to drive back to Santa Monica, since he has respiratory issues. 30 minutes later, he called us, "There is fire on the hill next to your house." I didn't believe him - I had seen a red glow on both sides of the highway past our home, but assumed it was from the very common occurrence of the gas company "burning off gas", which also leaves a big red glow in the sky. (For those of you who don't know, we lived on a ranch on the Ventura/Ojai Valley border right next to a very large oil field.) But just in case, I grabbed a flashlight, went looking for our birth certificates, and put them in a bag. We spent the next 10 minutes debating if we should pack things up. It is possible we did more than that, but this hour is so blurry... Donny stepped outside quickly and ran back in yelling, "We need to go NOW." I looked out and saw a seemingly new stream of smoke coming from the hill just behind our house, in front of a VERY large and bright red glow in the sky. Neither of which had been there 10 minutes earlier. Birdie woke up in the chaos, and as I tried to comfort and hold her, I packed a few clothes us. Since there were no lights in the house, this consisted of completely emptying 2 drawers without looking, both of which were sparse (I wish I had done laundry that day). My eyes went to some framed photos of my childhood, some ties that belonged to Donny's grandfather, and a few other things that I wish I had taken. But with a crying baby in one hand and a flashlight in the other, I just grabbed the computer, and went down to the car. While I was out there, I heard it start to rain heavily, lasting for only about 3 seconds. Except it wasn't rain, it was cinders falling on us like hail. I ran back inside. My hands shook as I put Ninja in the cat carrier, and Victor almost jumped out of Donny's arms into the darkness (but did not, thank god.) We drove away very quickly in 2 separate cars, and as we went down the street, we saw our neighbors all looking up towards our house. I did not turn around to see what they saw. But once we were on the highway, ashes falling on our windshields, I looked at the hill and saw that the entire ridge was on fire. We called each other and stayed on the phone as we drove, deciding last minute to drive North or South. We decided on South because we know alot more people in that direction. The fire on the ridge went for miles. We must have driven 10 minutes before the flames disappeared. We arrived in Santa Monica at Howard's house around 2am. I think I slept from 5-6:30. I would like to say this is an experience I will never forget, but it hs been a blur right from the start. Including the first few days afterwards... I know a few people stopped by to bring us things... One friend I had not seen in at least 15 years brought us pizza. Another brought toys for Birdie and sent clothes the next day. An amazing client of mine went shopping for vitamins and prepared foods and dropped them off for us. Burning Man friends who I have not seen in years rallied and brought presents for Birdie, including a handmade card. A complete stranger (friend of a person from high school who I thought didn't like me) brought me beautiful clean clothes. Etc, etc. You people are angels. I hope you all know how appreciated you all are. We are so blessed to have you in our lives - even those you of we have never met. Thank you.
Donny and I went back 2 days ago and saw the remains of our home. There is (almost) nothng there. No walls, no floors, just ash with a twisted metal roof on the ground. But... A necklace my mom had given me just 2 months earlier was sitting on the unburned front step. On the other side of the house in the garden was a ceramic dog I picked up in a thrift store in 1999 while attending my grandmother's funeral in rural Washington. And at the end of the house, there the 2nd bedroom had been, I saw a small white figurine sticking out of the ash. It was one of the wise men from my Nativity set. I had decided to not put it out this year (Birdie-proofing), so it had been in the box. I dug a bit and found the other 2 men. Then the Jesus, the Joseph, and finally Mary. And although I am not religious, I do love Christmas, and this has to mean... something.
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$22,523 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 223 people in 19 months
Created December 6, 2017
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