As the reports of the June 6th Holiday Fire surfaced, the ThomasFireHelp.org team was already hard at work to connect those in need to those who had help to give. Within hours of the fire’s start, the ThomasFireHelp team had expanded the platform once designed to meet the needs for the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide survivors to now serve the needs of our Goleta neighbors.
Since the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide, ThomasFireHelp has continued to be a key leader in long term recovery efforts in the region. In an effort to expand their capacity to support and advocate for survivors, ThomasFireHelp has enriched their community partnerships and their recovery network now includes faith-based and service organizations. With these vital community collaborations in place, ThomasFireHelp was able to quickly deploy their innovative platform to assist residents affected by the Holiday Fire.
To date, ThomasFireHelp has had over 22,000 page views on ThomasFireHelp.org and saw posts on the ThomasFireHelp Facebook page reach 11,000 and nearly 13,000 people on critical days after the Thomas Fire and Montecito Slide, respectively. ThomasFireHelp with the use of their online platform, social media outreach and community partnerships works on the grassroots level to match help with need, solving problems on a one-on-one scale and picking up those who fell through the cracks.
“ThomasFireHelp was born out of the immediate and desperate needs of people in the Ventura and Santa Barbara communities facing disasters of unprecedented scale and destruction. No one knew where to go or what to do, and everyone wanted to help. That was our simple beginning we became the ‘Craigslist’ of recovery, building a web-based platform connecting those in need with those who had resources to give”, stated Emily Barany, co-founder of ThomasFireHelp.
The site offers everything from supplies and housing to services and volunteers. Following the closure of the 101 Highway after the Montecito Slide, ThomasFireHelp organized the Montecito Airlift, which deployed 64 volunteer pilots to transport doctors and medical patients, all of whom urgently needed to get across the mud when the 101 was closed for nearly two weeks. 117 passengers were transported as far north as Palo Alto and as far south as San Diego.
“The Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide disasters have devastated our community and more than 6 months later, survivors are still trying to find the support they need to get back on their feet” said Peter Zierhut, Vice President of Haas Automation, a local employer with a history of community support. He continued, “For that reason, the Gene Haas Foundation is announcing a challenge grant of $25,000 to ThomasFireHelp, allowing them to continue their work of connecting those affected by the disasters with the services they need. We’re proud to be a part of the good work being done by this hard working organization. As new disasters strike, innovative models like ThomasFireHelp will be integral to the recovery of the region. ThomasFireHelp is poised to be international leader in recovery assistance and The Gene Haas Foundation is proud to be part of the effort.”
The grant ensures that, for every dollar raised from the community, the Gene Haas Foundation will match that amount, up to $25,000.