Two wildfires, that started here in Arizona in late June, merged and together burned nearly one half million acres of forest. During the multi-week long fire, over 30,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes and more than 400 homes were lost. It was this states largest wildfire in recorded history.
On a Tuesday morning, one of the local Arizona Vritual Jeep Club (AZVJC) members suggested putting together a relief run. He suggested we try to get as many Jeeps as possible to take supplies to the evacuee shelters for the upcoming Saturday. What happened in those 5 days was nothing short of a small miracle, in my opinion. Over 100 members signed up for the run, stocked with supplies that the shelter was in need of. We bought toys for the children and supplies for the animal shelter as well. Troy, from Toys by Troy, brought his tow rig (loaded with supplies) and a vehicle trailer so he could tow any unfortunate member that required some assistance (and it was pressed into service before the trip was done). I quickly posted a request for financial contributions on two on-line forums. My “virtual” friends donated just over $1000 to the cause. (Thank you all so very much!)
The pictures in this write-up can not begin to show the warmth, generosity, and fellowship that was experienced on that Saturday. The emotions ran high for both our group and the evacuees that were living in the shelter. But they were tears of joy….and they will be remembered by me forever.
Here are a few photos, in something that resembles the order in which things pretty much happened.
I asked a few Jeepin’ friends to help me out with the visit to Sam’s Club and Wall-Mart. I didn’t have the vehicle space to haul the supplies over to the Saturday morning meeting spot where some others had extra space to help transport the supplies.
With my PayPal debit card in hand, we made it past the checkout person and out the door. We said our goodbyes to the front door greeter (and Sam’s Club card checker) and pushed our three carts out to the parking lot.
Aside from helping get supplies to the wildfire victims, this relief run open the doors to a lot of new friendships. Gordon, the owner of this Cheokee, responded to my e-mail request, on the AZVJC e-mail reflector, for help in transporting supplies. Before we were done shopping on Friday evening, we loaded up this vehicle, a J-10 pickup truck, and my TJ.
Saturday morning arrived and we arrived at the Taco Bell parking lot in Fountain Hills. Joe and Joyce had picked up an emergency shipment of RED t-shirts from the local 4×4 shop. The AZVJC has taken to wearing these “got rocks?” t-shirts to all of our functions. It originally was done to set us apart from the “green folks” that attend the public land use meetings. It has basically become our trademark and when we all walk into a building, it does draw the focus to our group. For our relief run, it was to show our solidarity for the wildfire victims.
One of the members made up some decals for our vehicles. We donated $5 or more for a decal and the proceeds went to the shelter. A couple of the local 4×4 fabricators donated some gift certificates which were raffled off. All total, the decals and gift certificates generated more than $1000 in contributions.
Wildfire Relief Run
Our travel time was a little over an hour to get to Payson, AZ, where the shelter we were delivering our supplies to was located. We got a little spread out along the hour drive, but that was OK. We all caught up with the front of the pack when they hit the city limits. It took about 3 minutes for all of us to go past the same point (before we got spread out). Yes, there were a lot of Jeeps and other vehicles carrying supplies.
We stopped at the relief supplies staging area near the edge of town. They were using a feed store to warehouse and inventory the supplies. We brought mainly what the shelter had requested, that being; bottled water, gatorade, diapers, personal hygiene items, soap, bleach, socks, and a few other items.
These are just some of the supplies (water, gatorade, and soda) that were unloaded at this stop. People were still bringing in cases of supplies as these pictures were being taken.
Some more of the supplies….bleach, dish soap, laundry detergent, paper towels, baby wipes, etc.
Wildfire Relief Run
The middle school at Payson was used as one of two relief shelters. They also used the high school gym. When we arrived at the middle school and unloaded the toys and games (for adults too…..sitting around worrying about things with too much time on your hands gets old real fast). The shelter management introduced our group to the evacuees we then were able to visit with the folks. There were a lot of teary eyes in the crowd, ours and theirs. Some of these people had nothing more than the clothes they were wearing.
All forms of professional and religious support was available to the wildfire victims. There was insurance claim processing, medical attention for those with special needs, and spiritual counseling.
We finished our stop at the shelter. Some stayed behind to help out a bit while some of the other folks continued on to two animal shelters. The animal shelters were packed with animals of all sorts that had escaped the fire and gotten separated from their owners.
Our last stop, as a group, was at the local park. We had the raffle drawing and two lucky members walked away with hundreds of dollars worth of donated 4×4 fab work for their Jeep. We all got together, as best one can with a couple hundred people, and took some group pictures. We said our goodbyes and split up into smaller groups, heading off for lunch at one of the local restaurants. It was nice to finally sit down, have a nice meal, and talk with friends that I had not seen for quite some time.
Many thanks to everyone that helped make this run a success. Because of your kindness and generosity, we were able to bring a smile to the faces of the wildfire evacuees. They all said thanks and I promised those I spoke with that I would pass it along to all of you.
Here is a video clip from the VideoCD that I made. This segment is about 7.5MB big so DSL/cable modem is a requirement.