Community reaches out to fire victims | NevadaAppeal.com

Community reaches out to fire victims

William Ferchland and Susan Wood
Nevada Appeal News Service

It’s one of the main reasons why one chooses to live in South Lake Tahoe: the small-town feel.

Most everyone in town knows a friend – or a friend of a friend – who lost a home in the Angora fire. From mega stores such as Wal-Mart to a 23-year-old couple, donations have been pouring in to help the evacuees and the homeless.

“We’re donating to basically any organization that’s asking right now,” said Sam Coolbaugh, store manager at Safeway of South Lake Tahoe.

Water, Gatorade, dinner for those displaced by the fire at the South Tahoe Recreation Center, 100 sandwich rolls for the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department and other items were donated by the store – with more on the way, Coolbaugh said.

“It’s just what we have to do. It’s our community,” Coolbaugh said. “Everybody in our community is our family.”

It was a sentiment felt by many. Those not affected by the fire felt a tremendous urge to reach out to those who were.

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The outpouring has been phenomenal, Mayor Kathay Lovell said.

A cardboard sign near the “Y” read: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families.”

Raley’s at the “Y” made sandwiches, South Shore developer Randy Lane donated space at the Budget Inn and Kay Bradford has created an organization called “Tahoe Businesses Who Care,” which has received donations from businesses ranging from Sealed With a Kiss to Lake Tahoe Master Framing.

The Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce has also developed a special fund designed for “locals to help locals,” Executive Director Betty “B” Gorman said Monday. The business organization had tallied about $15,000 in donations from Aramark and Lakeland Village to Lakeshore Lodge and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Harrah’s Lake Tahoe wants its employees who were victimized by the fire to contact the human resources department for its extended benefits, which include rooms, meals and cash for essentials. There’s even a plan to stage a benefit concert for the victims of the tragedy, and truckloads of water and blankets were contributed to the effort.

At the city’s recreation center, which serves as the primary evacuation location, donations kept coming until there was no more room. The overflow was directed to the Boys & Girls Club at the former Al Tahoe Elementary School off Lyons Avenue.

Those wanting to help contributed to the flood of calls at the South Lake Tahoe dispatch center. Leona Allen, communications supervisor, said the calls ranged from people wanting to board pets, motels offering lodging, residents opening up their homes, bus companies offering transportation, doctors donating services and other acts of kindness.

Allen said the dispatch center marked the contributions on Post-it notes but were soon swamped by the sticky notes “all over.”

A person from Southern California said Los Angeles was praying for Lake Tahoe, Allen said.

“The outpouring is normal for Tahoe, what can I say?” Allen said.

” It’s got us a little teary-eyed in here,” she added. “It makes me feel very, very good.”

Jason Kollar and Carla Pearce, both 23, dropped off two bags of “sheets, shirts, all kinds of stuff” at the rear of the Tahoe Daily Tribune on Monday. Clothing, toiletries, food, shoes and other day-to-day items grew in piles where a bulky news press once stood.

“Everybody knows everybody. It’s a small town,” Kollar said. “I’d expect the same if I was in that position.”

Lindsay Bartlein helped bag and categorize clothing in the Tribune’s warehouse. An intern at the U.S. Forest Service who arrived in Tahoe from Michigan less than a month ago, Bartlein felt an urge to help.

“I feel the clothing pile is never going to end,” said Bartlein, who was evacuated from the Pope Barracks near Camp Richardson.

Donations for the American Red Cross was being accepted at 1137 Emerald Bay Road. Clothes and food are being accepted.

Wells Fargo donated $60,000. The bank’s donation will go to the Sacramento Sierra Chapter of the American Red Cross and Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Inc.

“This devastating fire is impacting our customers, neighbors and our own team members,” said Sean French, community president for Wells Fargo in Northern Nevada. “We want to do our part to support the many aid organizations who are helping victims of this fire.”

• Contact reporters William Ferchland or Susan Wood at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com or swood@tahoedailytribune.com.

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