By Mary A. Rogier, NCCLF’s President 

It’s been an especially difficult time for Northern California this month for anyone reading the news, thanks to a series of horrifying natural disasters which almost seemed to be coordinated – as if they are trying to send us a message. And maybe they are. For example, climate scientists are warning that the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes are just one consequence of human activity and inaction on climate change.

Right here in our own backyard, the recent wildfires demonstrated the impact of environmental disaster on lives (at least 40 have perished from the fires with dozens still missing) and property (nearly 6,000 structures destroyed). In the aftermath of these catastrophic events are thousands of individual tragedies that will take decades and more to remedy. It’s heartbreaking and overwhelming to consider how much destruction has occurred this year in our country alone, not to mention around the world. And it is sobering to witness the destruction of natural ecosystems and community culture – and to contemplate the vast amount of resources it will take to make these communities whole again – if ever.

Despite it all, my faith in humanity is always renewed when I witness the empathetic responses of people –  from around the world –  who simply seek to help.  So many people are offering financial support, food, supplies, and shelter. No matter the size, these acts matter because they address the immediate needs of people who are desperately seeking help.

Beyond the short-term assistance, however, the things people need to recover, rebuild, and restore their lives can only be obtained in the long-term. Much of what they need is similar to the chronic needs of the low-income community residents NCCLF and other CDFIs aim to serve every day. Homes, jobs, healthy food, health care services, education – these are the things that allow people to improve their lives and prospects.

Unfortunately, these are often the things they lose when faced with a natural disaster, when they are most vulnerable. The nonprofits that serve them – many of which are NCCLF partners – are also vulnerable during these events, eliminating an otherwise reliable bridge to personal safety and sustainability.

As mission-based community financial organizations, CDFIs can play an important role in both short- and long-term recovery efforts, particularly in meeting the needs of low-income communities experiencing barriers to accessing capital and other resources. As we work with our nonprofit partners, we will continue to infuse our capital and expertise into these efforts and will coordinate our work with our community development partners to bring new resources to communities in need.

So far, NCCLF has made several donations to the organizations below that address emergency needs caused by the wildfires, and will continue to do so. Because we are particularly worried about farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented and at risk of unemployment due to the fires, we are also contributing to UndocuFund.

A coalition of immigrant service providers and advocates have launched the UndocuFund for fire relief in Sonoma County to provide direct assistance to undocumented Sonoma County residents who are victims of the Northern California fires. As of October 15, $85,000 had been raised by local supporters and donors. One hundred percent of all donations will go to victim support, with the first $50,000 in donations matched by The California Wellness Foundation.

In addition to this, we are in the process of reaching out to our nonprofit and community partners to support rebuilding efforts. If you’re able to provide financial support, please refer to a useful list put together by our partners at SPUR. Click here for more information. 

About the Author

Mary A. Rogier is NCCLF’s President. She has been with NCCLF for 18 years.