The flames have been extinguished and the power and gas are back on but for many Sonoma County residents the challenges continue in the aftermath of last month’s Kincade fire.
On Thursday, local nonprofit organization Corazon Healdsburg stepped up its efforts to support these local residents by reopening the Healdsburg Free Store, first launched in the wake of the October 2017 wildfires.
The store, as the name suggests, currently offers new women’s clothing, hygiene products, baby items and household goods free of charge. It is housed in the former DiVine Pizza on Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Road and is expected to stay open at least through mid-December.
Corazon CEO Ariel Kelley said this new effort is designed to help those who lost their homes in the Kincade fire, as well as people facing financial hardship due to business closures and other disruptions caused by the fire, evacuations and power shutoffs.
“While the fire obviously affected those who lost everything, this disaster also has had a very large rippling effect in the low-income community,” said Kelley. “What we’re doing isn’t going to help people by giving them money to pay their rents, it will subsidize things like diapers and clothing that they would have to buy at this time of year. We’re hoping we can help their recovery in a different way by distributing goods and relieving some of the other burdens.”
All the items available in the Healdsburg Free Store have been donated by organizations that specialize in disaster relief, such as Baby2Baby, Matthew 25: Ministries, and MendoLake Complex Fire Relief, a group that was founded after the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018. Donations will continue to arrive in the weeks to come, additional items such as shoes and men’s clothing are expected to be available next week.
Although the store didn’t open until 10 a.m. Thursday, a line had already started forming by 7 a.m. Customers were required to check in before entering — those who lost their homes were given pink Post-It notes and access to a special room with additional clothes.
Maria Gonzalez was one of the first to “shop” the special room. Gonzalez, who lost her home in the Alexander Valley, was there with a cousin and a toddler, who happily darted around the room. She said she was looking for items to help her family manage in the temporary housing they were able to find following the fire.
“We have a big family,” she said, noting that she would return when the store gets more men’s clothing next week. “We give thanks to all of the people who have [organized] this [store].”
As Gonzalez continued browsing the room, Corazon volunteer Adriana Alvarez was giving instructions to other customers entering the store. While the Healdsburg resident didn’t suffer any losses in the Kincade fire, she said she new many people who did and was inspired to volunteer on their behalf.
“People need help, we are here to help,” she said in Spanish.
Around 10:15 a.m., a truck full of soap and other bath products pulled into the parking lot. Truck driver Mike Savin, along with his crew, had been hired by a nonprofit called Clean the World and had been driving through the night from Las Vegas.
“We had no idea where we were going or who this was for,” he said. “Seeing what this is, seeing how this can help people, it’s pretty neat.”
Corazon volunteers, not expecting to receive the items, were delighted but quickly realized they needed assistance unloading the truck. Unprompted, two men from the back of the line to the Free Store offered to pitch in.
One of the men, Fabian Reyes, lost his Alexander Valley home in the fire and said helping stock the store was the least he could do. In between runs from the loading area to the stockroom, Reyes said that he was hoping to pick up blankets, clothes, shoes, and hygiene products for his family.
“We lost everything,” he said. “It’s just good to know people in this community have our backs.”
Today and Tomorrow – Friday and Saturday – we are closed to the general public so we can accept donations – and will reopen on Monday at 10am. If you have NEW items to donate, please drop them off between 10am and 1pm today or tomorrow.
The Healdsburg Free Store is operating out of the former DiVine Pizza location, 20 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg. Hours are 10 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday.
The store will be CLOSED to the general public Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16 in order to accept donations. It will be open to those who have lost their homes in the Kincade fire — remember to bring your Red Cross number and proof of address.
If you have NEW items to donate, please drop them off Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. For more information, click here.