In September 2020, Way of the Columbia-Willamette (UWCW) launched a Wildfire Response and Recovery Fund, to help families suffering devastating loss caused by the wildfires in our region. In times of disasters, we’ve heard from our nonprofit partners on the ground that vulnerable communities, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities are disproportionately affected.  These communities generally feel comfortable seeking support from organizations where they have trusted relationships. That is why, in crises like these, UWCW plays a role in prioritizing direct and unrestricted dollars to culturally specific organizations.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of individual, corporate and foundation donors, in addition to supporting immediate relief needs, we will also support longer term recovery needs.

Our Community Impact team reached out to our nonprofit partners on the ground to understand immediate needs and longer-term recovery support that families needed. Based on our outreach and assessment, we are in the process of releasing our first tranche of funds. Given our commitment to racial equity in our mission and work, and our longstanding partnerships with culturally-specific as well as culturally-responsive organizations, distribution of funds follows these guidelines:

  • Grantees include culturally specific and culturally responsive organizations where communities of color including refugee and immigrant populations have sought assistance from trusted partners.  These communities are often ineligible for federal assistance even in cases of emergency disasters.
  • The funding we provide is unrestricted which means it can be used toward direct support or organizational operations.
  • Funds will support the needs that our grantees have identified for families such as housing, food, healthcare products, air purifiers, transportation, childcare, clothing, laundry services and showers.

 

We are also learning from our nonprofit partners about longer term needs such as the need for culturally responsive emergency preparedness including translation of emergency communications and materials.  Through our collaborations with government officials at the local and state level, we are identifying opportunities to help shape disaster response policies supporting BIPOC communities moving forward.

With your generous support, we have allocated $189,000 toward immediate relief efforts to the following nonprofit organizations:

Name

Area of work

Relief Efforts and Needs

Bridging Cultures

Strengthening the community by bridging cultures through mutually transformative relationships.

 

  • Protecting Oregon farmers through distribution and in person education of PPE. 
  • Distributing direct aid in the form of cash awards between $200-$600 to affected wildfire families who have suffered things like (not limited to) evacuation, displacement from their home, employment lay off, smoke damage to their home, food insecurity, in Clackamas and North Marion Counties with emphasis on the Canby area.

Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians

Providing education, physical and mental health services and substance abuse treatment to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

 

  • Support members of the Siletz tribes across the state Supported evacuees. Have needs around small home air purifiers and generators.

Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice

Equips communities and people of faith to advance immigrant justice through direct accompaniment of immigrants facing detention and deportation, policy advocacy at local, state and national levels, and prophetic action.

 

  • As part of the Immigrant Mutual Aid Coalition, they coordinate basic needs resource distribution to provide mutual aid to immigrant communities affected by COVID-19 and wildfires.

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)

Serves the holistic needs of Oregon's immigrants, refugees and mainstream community members. As a community-based organization, IRCO empowers children, youth, families and elders from around the world to build new lives and become self-sufficient by providing more than 200 culturally and linguistically specific social services.

 

  • Services that were requested included emergency assistance, basic needs, accessing housing options that are culturally responsive, transportation, clinical trauma informed intervention and support.

 

LoveOne

Serving Clackamas County neighbors in need by providing clean laundry, showers, meals, personal care resources and community connections.

 

  • Laundry event: clients can wash and dry up to three loads of their laundry free of charge.
  • Shower event: offer 15 minutes in a shower stall stocked with shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Resource table stocked with a range of essential personal care items, snacks, and other resources. 
  • Reported that people were being turned away from evacuation sites because they were considered vagrants. Everyone evacuated by the fires needed a safe place to evacuate to, which necessitated a supply of sleeping bags or bed mats and blankets, tents and tarps.
  • Also need food and water, showers and portable toilets, bus passes, use of a phone, connecting with loved ones.

Micronesian Islander Community

 

Mission: To organize social justice programs, preserve our cultures, and enhance leadership through unifying our diverse communities.

 

  • Supported evacuated families with basic needs/financial support. Those evacuated have or are experiencing houselessness or living in tight spaces with many family members which put them at added risk due to COVID-19.
  • Requests for food/or financial support due to job loss.
  • MIC also identified translations as a challenge especially for health, safety and emergency disaster material. The languages spoken and which could benefit from translation: Chuukese, Pohnpeian, Marshallese , Palauan, Tongan and Chamorro languages, and other Micronesian and Pacific Islander languages.

Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, Inc.(NARA)

Mission: To provide education, physical and mental health services and substance abuse treatment that is culturally appropriate to American Indians, Alaska Natives and anyone in need. 

 

  • Provided services to help evacuate elders from the immediate areas. They used a Gresham residential program to help move youth and staff to a hotel.
  • Providing food support in the form of emergency food boxes, donating masks and sanitizers.
Oregon Food Bank Works to eliminate hunger and its root causes. Serves all of Oregon and SW Washington.
  • Provided support throughout Oregon and SW Washington to those affected by the wildfires. In Clackamas County alone, OFB provided about 1,300 food boxes to Clackamas County since the fires.
  • Grant will support BIPOC families with culturally responsive needs around food insecurity in the wake of the wildfires. Additionally, grant will go toward ensuring that the food available meets the cultural needs of our communities of color.  

Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN)

Empowering low wage farm workers by protecting the rights via Oregon’s Farmworker Union. PCUN focuses on creating safer workplaces, advocating for fair wages, and pushing for enough economic security to care for Latinx farm worker families.

 

  • Offering emergency response, translations (including of evacuation orders), education, food, and basic emergency needs.
  • Rapid deployment of hygiene products, KN95 Masks, N95 Masks (limited supply), Goggles, and other PPE for working families.
  • Financial Aid for workers affected by wildfires
  • Referrals and Navigation of services (English, Spanish, Mixtec) for community members in need of legal services, hotels, and other assistance. 
  • Creating community feedback loop, and responsive to immigrant community needs around Wildfire response through 98.3 FM Radio Poder

Unite Oregon

Led by people of color, immigrants and refugees, rural communities, and people experiencing poverty, Unite Oregon works across Oregon to build a unified intercultural movement for justice.

  • Evacuating seniors and families, offering trauma informed interventions to families who have lost their housing because of the fires.
  • Their youth program volunteers are doing outreach and supporting their families with translations and assisting in filling out documentation.
  • Handing out gift cards, clothing, food, suitcases (to keep the dignity of community not carrying around plastic bags) and every basic need requested by their displaced clients.
  • Supporting community members impacted by wildfires to turn in their ballots. They have posted bilingual informational flyers about voting in the upcoming elections.
  • Long term support: Taking on evictions and tenant rights and looking for ways to be prepared for future natural disasters. Housing is also a huge issue for their community.

 

March 2021 Update: Supporting longer-term community needs with a second round of grantees

Additionally, we allocated $153,000 in a second tranche toward longer-term relief efforts, expanding our scope to include community-based organizations around the state that are supporting the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities during the wildfires and continued recovery. This second round of funding also includes our first grantee who is focused on providing trauma informed support and training for organizations:

Name

Area of work

Relief Efforts and Needs

BB Camp (B’nai B’rith Camp)

Provides safe, nurturing, and fun experiences in a welcoming environment that inspires individual growth and enduring Jewish identity, including youth-centered summer camps and year-round programs for all ages.

  • Served over 50,000 Free Grab & Go Meals, to food insecure and hungry children in the Lincoln County  
  • Continue to serve and deliver three hot, delicious, and nutritious free meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) seven days per week to over 300 wildfire evacuees to nine shelters
  • Served over 170,000 free meals, to date, to food-insecure children and Echo Mountain Complex wildfire survivors- will continue to serve meals throughout 2021

Catholic Charities

Area of Work: Assure that essential, life-saving services and support are accessible to the most throughout Oregon.
  • Activated more robust outreach of Save First and Immigration Legal Service Programs in response to the wildfires, providing financial education and savings incentive programs, as well as low-cost consultations and legal representation to immigrants and refugees throughout Oregon.
  • Provided disaster response services to at least 150 Latinx families, helping them with the recovery of critical work Visas and status documentation, emergency financial assistance, resource navigation/education, and attorney support, giving back to the community an estimated 1.8 million dollars between services, basic needs, utilities, housing support (hotel vouchers etc) and financial support.
Clackamas Service Center An inclusive "one-stop" community center for individuals and families seeking food relief and resources for improved health, dignity, and stability.
  • Offered support to Love One with shower cart for evacuees that were camped at the Town Center Mall. Also supplied food cart, clothing and essential need items. 
  • Supported local shelters and churches in getting community out of the streets when the smoke progressively became toxic.
  • Offered food cart support and delivery services, providing food deliveries to about 100 houses, four days a week.
  • Met incoming clients where they were at and provided whatever support they could, including acting as a “mail house” for evacuees so they can pick up their mail, access hygiene items and clothes. 

The Hearth - De La Raíz Program

Area of Work: Dedicated to gathering and sharing stories of the Latinx communities of Southern Oregon, utilizing the power of stories to heal, connect, enrich, and mobilize communities for good. 
  • Collaborated on an online community storytelling event, “The Things That Do Not Burn” (Las Cosas Que No Se Queman), which presented stories and music by local residents affected by the Almeda fires
  • Lead story circles for youth from Phoenix and Talent, two cities impacted by the wildfires, and will create murals in public spaces in the summertime with the involvement of youth and local community members.

Todos Juntos

Empowering youth and their families to be successful at school, home and in their communities.
  • Worked with community drives and local groups to deliver items to families displaced by the fires including gift cards for gas/basic needs, clothes, sleeping bags, towels, insurance help, emotional wellness supports, fresh food and food boxes  
  • Provided support for displaced families with children including care packages, school readiness resources, toys and parenting support
  • Providing relief funds for families with 0-18 year olds in Rural Clackamas county that have been negatively impacted by the wildfires.

Unete Center for Farmworker Advocacy

Strives to empower and enrich the lives of Farm Workers and Immigrants through education, cultural presentations, advocacy, representation in issues that affect their lives and organizing to defend immigrant rights.

  • Provided timely bilingual emergency disaster evacuation updates and resources for the non -English speaking community in Jackson County. Also offered virtual community space via Facebook to assist the community in envisioning what wildfire recovery and repair could look like moving forward. 
  • Assisted 600 people in the first weeks following the fires, providing education, food, and basic emergency needs. 
  • Long term efforts include taking on evictions and tenant rights and looking for ways to be prepared for future natural disasters. 

Culturally Responsive Training/Support:

In addition to funding community-based organizations that were providing direct service to people affected by the wildfires, we heard from our community partners about the need for culturally-responsive training and support for their staff to manage disaster response.  Below is our first wildfire grantee to support that work:

Pacific University - Sabiduria Program  A true collaboration between academia and the community in bringing bilingual and culturally-informed mental and emotional health and wellness to the community through education, awareness, support, service and treatment.
  • Increasing access for rural Latinx English community members who do not have means to access traditional mental/emotional support through:
    1. Culturally adapted rapid response mental health treatment to those affected by wildfires.
    2. Training, education and cultural conversations regarding toxic stress, trauma and healing regarding wildfires,
    3. Psychoeducation in the forms of handouts to be delivered with aids (e.g. donations)  
  • Creating virtual gatherings through bilingual Facebook sessions, “Charlas Comunitarias”, to learn about emotional health and resources, the largest online sessions brought in 2,400 participants.  From June 2020 to December 2020, the charlas gathering reached 10,000.
  • Organizing a Wildfire Relief Drive for Farmworkers and Firefighters impacted by the wildfires near Woodburn. Sabiduria students raised over $2000 cash and donated over $1500 worth in additional items to Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN). Donation packages included inspirational and supportive messages, mental health resources and information about our RRT program.

 

At United Way, we are committed to helping our community recover, become more resilient, while building a more inclusive and equitable region where all families have the resources and opportunities to thrive.

 

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