At 2:30 am I woke up to horns blaring. Two minutes later, embers were falling on my roof, and I knew I had to leave immediately. Without enough time to think, all I grabbed was my dog, some dog food, and my cell phone. I drove through the fires, ending up up at an evacuation center.
Food For Thought staff called me right away to see how I was doing, and once I got my bearings, that was the next place I went. FFT gave me groceries and hot lunches, but most importantly, they gave me a warm, welcoming place, and a whole lot of hugs. Food For Thought is like a second home to me. Although I’ve been a client/patient for a few years prior to the fire, I was pretty isolated most of that time, so I was getting my groceries delivered to me. I started feeling well enough to come into the Center, and it’s amazing how much this place has changed my life. It got me out of the house, and I made friends by volunteering and coming in for lunch. FFT is my social hub, my family. Once things settle down, I can’t wait to come back to volunteer, and to get a little piece of my normal life back.
Time after the fires had been a blur, and I felt very disoriented. The lack of control was the hardest part for me. My puppy had a tough time too. I know she was affected by the stress—she didn’t eat for days. Neither did I, for that matter. My apartment was considered one of the lucky ones, but it was severely smoke damaged, and declared unsafe to be in. In the weeks after the fire, I stayed in a hotel, but needed to find a place to live. I had HUD and a dog, so it wasn’t easy. Housing prices soared and so many of the options were short-term.
I can truly say, the best part of this whole experience was seeing how kind and generous our community has been. Complete strangers have given me so much. One of the greatest gifts I received was the certainty that this is my home town, my community. I didn’t fully comprehend the importance of this until the threat of it being taken away. In all, I know I’m lucky to be alive, and I’m grateful for all the help I’ve received. To Food For Thought, all the other service groups, and the many, many people in our community that have helped out (especially in such a tough time), thank you!
DOFL note: Food for Thought provides healing nutrition and compassion to over 850 people affected by serious illness in Sonoma County, CA.