Tragedy has struck in Eastern Washington where the Carlton Complex fire, the largest wildfire in Washington State history, has destroyed around 300 homes and left hundreds with nothing. Pacific County locals are working together to help those who lost everything in Pateros and Brewster.
Joni Bennett is currently gathering money to purchase gift cards to local stores for families who lost their homes. Take cash donations to her at the Willapa Red and White, open Tuesday - Friday 10-4, and she will divide it amongst the families she's working with.
Bennett has connected with Char (Dockter) Harmier who currently lives in Brewster but graduated from Willapa Valley and is the daughter of Ralph and Freda Dockter. Harmier and her family thankfully did not lose their home in the fire. Working on the ground and directly with families, Harmier has supplied Bennett with a list of 11 families in need.
"I am so grateful that I have her connection," Bennett said. "The families there have nothing - they lost everything. There's no power there, even Char has no power, even though she still has her house. The homeless families are pitching tents at the Pateros High School. The children have no supplies for school this year."
Harmier told stories of those who lost all their possessions, further sparking Pacific County locals to get active and offer help.
"There's one family that comes to mind - a couple who are both volunteer firefighters," Harmier wrote to Bennett. "They lost their house while he was saving others. She's 8.5 months pregnant sleeping in a tent on the field [at the high school]. They have a three-year-old daughter, too. Her mom has cancer and is also on the field. Her sister and brother-in-law along with their two kids are with them, also. They could definitely use some help."
Harmier told another story: "Someone told me a story that a lady who had lost everything came into the shelter the other day and said, 'I don't have anything pretty. Not even a necklace or earrings.' So sad. She just wanted some lipstick - just heart breaking. It has been 102 to 104 degrees here for the past few days. I cannot imagine have nothing and living in a tent in these temperatures."
With a list of families who lost their homes in hand, Bennett created a Facebook page to request others to adopt families and supply them with needed supplies. Six families were adopted by locals and Bennett would like to specially thank them, including: Joni's fitness group and Mynt clients, Gretchen Sagen and crew, Christina Westerback, Ava Robinson at Security State Bank, Diane Fuller and the Lutheran Church, and Karen Camenzind and friends. Jake Myers, owner of Everybody's, also donated 14,000 pounds of food and supplies to Pateros.
To deliver the gift boxes and gift cards collected, Bennett will be driving to Eastern Washington herself, on August 9. "They need this stuff now. They can't wait," she said. She will no longer be accepting donations after August 8.
Those who want to help after August 9 can also go to localheros.org and adopt a family who lost their homes in the fire, an ongoing program.