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Boomer Grandpa: Only you … can help

November 22, 2018

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Many families gather and reflect upon this day in different ways.

We have moved into this sensationalized season where commercials show lavish Christmas gifts such as brand new vehicles. These commercials seem idiotic to the majority of us.

What we do realize in this season is that there are many needs in our community and our country. Every day we make decisions about helping others. Whether it’s to the red kettles or in our workplaces. Churches need contributions to support many different organizations.

We decide who and how much we can help. A certain cause or organization might have a deep meaning to you. Maybe it’s cancer research or Alzheimer’s organizations. 2018 has brought us several natural disasters that have impacted many. Sometimes the needs that surround us can overwhelm us.

Currently there are wildfires in California. It’s hard for us here in Minnesota to understand the devastation. The town of Paradise, Calif., that has been mostly destroyed by the wildfire is similar in population to Winona.

Imagine the entire city of Winona gone — schools, businesses, thousands of homes. Jobs, a way of life, shelter and routine events such as attending school have been changed and rearranged.

These fires have affected thousands and will continue to do so for years to come. Individuals, businesses and entire communities struggle to comprehend what comes next. The total number of structures destroyed is unbelievable.

For some who spent careers working in the fire service, law enforcement, or first responder fields, watching this struggle and the courage of those brave men and women the past week has been emotional.

How is it that in today’s world of modern equipment and technology that entire towns can be lost in wildfires? It’s a complex issue and there are many contributing factors, but a big one in these fires was Mother Nature.

Once a fire started, severe drought conditions and high winds overwhelmed efforts to stop the spread. These fires move with a swiftness, strength and power that is indescribable.

Building communities in fire-prone areas that lack resistance to wildfires is not new. There have been ongoing practices to reduce these fire risks for years. Yet, this still happens. Once the final flame is doused, agencies, communities and states will take time to understand why the devastation was so huge.

There may be new legislation or requirements that organizations come together to reduce wildfire hazards. Communities must do a better job of planning, preparing and developing strategies to respond and recover.

Doug Robinson, a friend and retired deputy fire chief from Kasson Fire/Rescue, told me it is critical that cities continually reinvest in their fire departments, staffing, training, education, buildings and equipment. The fire service needs to have a representative on zoning, planning and community development.

Doug has held positions in Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Minnesota Fire Service Certification Board. He said whether you look at the Great Hinckley, Minn., fire in 1894 or the Paradise, Calif., (Camp Fire) fire in 2018 there will be similarities. Lessons will be learned although they are difficult.

We can help. The American Red Cross has been on the ground at all sites of the wildfires. Rochester Red Cross Executive Director Melanie Tschida said that those wishing to help California wildfire victims can specify on their personal checks that the donation is for CA Wildfires. For online donations there is a drop-down tab where you can specifically indicate that you wish for your donation to go to wildfire needs.

I hope and pray the entire country moves together to help the victims of these wildfires. I hope major corporations donate big money. Like other disasters, many of those who are helping others have lost their homes as well.

Other organizations that are helping and could use contributions are the United Way offices of Greater Los Angeles, Northern California and Ventura County. They have all launched relief fund efforts. The Humane Society of Ventura County is accepting animals that escaped the fires and they are in need of assistance.

The California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund, Lutheran Disaster Response and the International Association of Firefighters Foundation are all working to raise funds for fire relief.

The Eric Marsh Foundation has set up a relief fund for firefighters who have lost their homes in the California wildfires. Go to the website ericmarshfoundation.org or you can send a personal check to Eric Marsh Foundation, 409 W. Goodwin St., Prescott, AZ 86303.

There may be an uneasy feeling at some Thanksgiving tables this year. A few of us may know someone affected by these events in 2018. I do. One of Mother Teresa’s well known quotes is, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” I can handle that.

I hope many are gathered around your table this week. Give thanks and enjoy your turkey day.

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