When the wildfires ripped through California in 2017, they left devastation in their wake. Santa Rosa was among the hardest hit, with the Tubbs Fire destroying nearly 3,000 homes.
St. Eugene Cathedral School in Santa Rosa, a BASIC Fund partner, was impacted in a number of ways.
“Twenty-one students and five staff members lost their homes, their pets and all their belongings. Other students’ homes were damaged, and one boy’s aunt and uncle perished in the fire. Half of our students whose homes ultimately survived were awakened in the middle of the night and driven away to safety. They, along with many other students, were evacuated at least once while firefighters battled to bring the fires under control,” Principal Barbara Gasparini said.
“As terrible as it was for families whose homes were destroyed or damaged, most of them had insurance and other resources to help them to recover financially. The BASIC Fund families, especially those who are Latino, were among the most financially vulnerable. Although most didn’t own homes to lose, many lost work time or jobs and saw their rents increase.”
In the weeks following the tragedy, the BASIC Fund and its supporters tried to better understand what role they could play in the recovery. Ultimately, donors from the BASIC Fund provided for additional tuition coverage for the families, and helped to hire a counselor who served the student body.
“Most of the children we traumatized by their experiences during the fires and returned to school wary and easily frightened,” the principal said. “The combination of counseling and after-school tutoring has helped the students on their path to recovery.”
The recovery has been difficult, and it is still far from finished, but the St. Eugene community carries a strong hope for the future. Principal Gasparini wants to see the students and families continue to heal, becoming strong and resilient. The students in turn have realized how important it is to receive help in their time of need, and set themselves to the task of raising money for those in need in Paradise following their recent fires.
“As awful as the firestorms were, it has been a blessing to see the caring and kindness BASIC Fund employees and donors have shown toward our community, and that members of our community have shown toward each other and beyond,” Principal Gasparini said.
If you want to see other ways The BASIC Fund is making a difference, check out http://www.basicfund.org/ourimpact.