Tzu Chi Provides Another Oak Fire Disaster Aid Distribution in California

Northwest  |  September 1, 2022
Tzu Chi USA Modesto Service Center volunteers joyfully offer a second disaster aid distribution for Oak Fire survivors in Mariposa County, California. Photo/Modesto Service Center Team

Written by Shuren Yi
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

On Friday, July 22, 2022, the Oak Fire ignited near Yosemite National Park in California’s Central Valley. The disaster triggered an evacuation of more than 6,000 residents, about a third of the County’s population. Before it was 98% contained, the Oak Fire had burned over 19,000 acres, destroying 193 structures, including many residential homes.

The Tzu Chi team prepares the distribution site before the arrival of Oak Fire survivors. Photo/Modesto Service Center Team

No One Gets Left Behind

On August 20, 2022, Tzu Chi volunteers from Modesto, California, once again traveled to the Senior Activity Center in Mariposa County and held a second disaster relief distribution for residents affected by the Oak Fire. Eight Tzu Chi Modesto Service Center volunteers served 22 families and distributed cash cards totaling $11,500, benefiting 56 residents.

In addition to providing immediate assistance to the survivors who couldn’t attend the first distribution a week before, the event brought the love and care of Master Cheng Yen, and Tzu Chi volunteers from around the world.

A volunteer explains the story behind Tzu Chi bamboo banks, sharing with Oak Fire survivors how this aid is made possible by the love of people from around the world. Photo/Modesto Service Center Team

Cash Cards Provide Timely Relief

Gerda Reuther arrived at 9:15 AM, hoping to apply for the aid after hearing from Oak Fire survivors who came to the first distribution that this unfamiliar Buddhist charity group would be back to provide disaster relief. Gerda lives with her 85-year-old mother, and the wildfire damaged their house. Since Gerda’s elderly mother is bedridden, she couldn’t come to the distribution site with her daughter. Understanding the family’s situation, Tzu Chi volunteers gave them a cash card on the spot, providing immediate assistance.

Each case is different, and volunteers diligently fill out the necessary paperwork to help each household according to their situation. Photo/Modesto Service Center Team

As the Oak Fire was raging towards her home on July 22, Carol Lewis only had time to quickly pack a suitcase and grab her beloved pet before they escaped the blaze. When Carol returned after the fire, she found her home and all her belongings burned to ash, souvenirs of sentimental value among them.  Sadly, her home was the only one destroyed out of five neighboring houses.

Since July 22, I’ve learned a lot. During this difficult and sentimental time, I’m very grateful and realize that what was lost has been lost; there is nothing I can do about that. But, being surrounded by many people [Tzu Chi volunteers] willing to give love and care warms my heart.

Carol Lewis
Oak Fire Survivor

Randy Swager and his wife, mother, and daughter, all live in different mobile homes in the mountains but use the same registered address, which is quite normal for mountain residents in the United States. Tzu Chi volunteers quickly confirmed the situation on the spot. They gave each household a cash card, empathizing with their current difficulties and knowing how timely disaster relief makes such a difference.

Tzu Chi volunteers address each disaster aid case with care, attentive to individual needs. Photos/Modesto Service Center Team

Working Closely With the Community

Tzu Chi USA’s two Oak Fire disaster relief distributions were made possible thanks to the cooperation of the Mariposa County Senior Activity Center, which kindly loaned their site for both occasions. To ensure that those on Tzu Chi’s list for the previous aid distribution who didn’t show up won’t miss the second opportunity to receive aid, Susette Micallef, a staff member, helped call them one by one to remind them to come.

The Senior Activity Center in Mariposa County offers the site for Tzu Chi’s Oak Fire disaster relief distributions, and staff help as well. Photo/Modesto Service Center Team

With the collaboration of local community organizations, Tzu Chi USA Northwest Region volunteers provided two back-to-back cash card distributions for those impacted by the Oak Fire. This timely assistance will help set them on the road to recovery after this wildfire turned their lives upside down.

Wildfires are a recurring disaster in many parts of California. Your love and support empower us to bring aid without delay.

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