We decided to start the morning with a bike ride around Clear Lake State Park to get our heads ready for whatever the day may bring. Yesterday was an emotional day and we needed to be strong. Unfortunately, we found out that they had just stopped hosting displaced families and volunteers this week. Clear Lake is the largest natural lake in the United States. We called it home for two nights while in the county.
We drove south from the park on State Highway 175 passed a lot of the destruction to the town of Middletown. Their population is a mere 1,000 people so they are a tight knit community. When we arrived at the Lion’s Club, we walked through the front “check-in and produce,” to the back which was set-up like a thrift shop.
A wide variety of items were donated and we were part of the vetting process of new items and items that were too weathered. They have made fast progress here since September 12th with the tremendous support of individuals from all over the country. They have had items driven personally by the truck full from Southern California and New Mexico, as well as other places. Only 10 days ago this place was not organized at all. There were garbage bags of donations flooding the lawn. It’s amazing how far they’ve come in such a short time. They will be officially closing down before Halloween, in an effort to keep the annual tradition of a Halloween party for the kids here at the Club. They have gladly hosted it for 50 years.
We worked alongside the CCC again as well as local volunteers. One who gravitated towards us was a self-proclaimed “fabulous hippie,” Felicia. She filled us in on all that was happening in the town. Today, we had the opportunity to interact with families; helping them locate items they needed as well as lend them an ear for any grief they wanted to share. We heard several stories. One that stood out was a husband and wife who were away at a reunion in SoCal when the fire hit Cobb. They got a call from a neighbor, Mike, who was overseeing the Avalon Hot Springs Resort. The fire depleted this resort as well. Mike was able to climb through a skylight at their house and grab a few valuables they cherished. One item he wasn’t able to retrieve was her father’s rocking chair that he had left to her. They had just spent $600 refinishing the chair. She told me, with tears in her eyes, that she didn’t even get a chance to sit in it. The rocking chair holds so many memories. They are currently staying at a stranger’s summer home nearby while Mike is forced to sleep in graveyards nearby. Others are staying in storage units. Some may end up moving on from the area. We finished the day merchandising and sorting items. For some reason, our duties seem to be centering back to our fashion degrees lately!
We left the distribution center wishing them the best in such a tragic disaster. We headed north for one more scenic drive around the beautiful Clear Lake to reflect on the three days we were here and we will never forget. The victims are forced to hold onto memories and rebuild what they can. We stopped to look out over Lake County as we drove over the hill. Stay safe, stay unified, and stay positive Lake County. We love you and thank you for having us!