School, local communities find ways to help victims of recent CA tragedies

Mia Hawkins, Editor-in-Chief

Not even 24 hours after the Nov. 7 deadly mass shooting occurred at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, people were evacuated from their homes in order to escape the intense Woolsey Fire. Three of the evacuees were Alexandra Thomas’ sister and parents. They were evacuated from their homes as the fire began to encroach upon the Thousand Oaks community.

Thomas, a sophomore and senior English teacher, grew up in Thousand Oaks and knows the area well. Her family lives only a few exits from the Borderline Bar & Grill and has visited the establishment numerous times since graduating high school. Both her parents are English professors at the nearby Pepperdine University, where Thomas attended college.

“It was surreal that something like this would happen in Thousand Oaks, one of the safest cities in the nation,” Thomas said.

That same day the fire began, Thomas invited her sister and parents to stay with her in Long Beach after their evacuation due to the fire. As the Camp Fire up north in Paradise was taking place at the same time as the Woolsey Fire, most hotels in both northern and southern California were completely booked by evacuees.

According to Curbed Los Angeles, the Woolsey Fire devastated at least 96,949 acres of land, including 1,500 structures. According to CNN, the Camp Fire destroyed more than 117,000 acres, including upwards of 7,000 structures. Both fires are now 100 percent contained.

Despite the difficult times that were overtaking her hometown, Thomas said she and her family spent the weekend enjoying each other’s company.

“They stayed in good spirits and we had a very meaningful weekend together as a family,” Thomas said. “Priorities only become clearer during these times…”

Since the containment of the devastating fires, residents of California have been looking for ways to help those affected by contributing to foundations and other efforts.

“I have been giving a bit to the GoFundMe of high school pals and church friends who have lost their homes,” Thomas said. “It’s been an incredibly tough time seeing GoFundMe pages all over Facebook. Additionally, my sister and I bought #TOSTRONG shirts as a reminder of the tough days for Thousand Oaks with the shooting and fires. All proceeds for these shirts go to victims of the Borderline shooting and community members that lost their homes.”

One other way individuals can help those affected is by donating to the American Red Cross. Individuals can donate to their foundation online and proceeds go toward helping bring comfort such as shelter and proper food to the victims of the destruction. In addition, by visiting the Los Angeles County website directly, there are links that can lead users to other organizations like the LA County Animal Care Foundation.

On behalf of the school, junior class President Isabella Ross also created a fund to support victims of the California fires to help provide relief to the families affected.

“I imagined how I would feel if my house had burned down and I was directly affected,” Ross said. “Some of our friends and family members were evacuated, and one even lost their home. I was not only devastated by their loss but by the tragedy and destruction that so many Californian families, whether they be in northern or southern California, have faced and are facing going into the new year as a result of what is being referred to as the worst wildfire in modern history.”

As of Jan. 10, Ross and Mater Dei have raised more $1,000. Nine hundred of that amount was raised online, putting them about a third of the way towards the $3,000 goal they set on the site.

In addition to financial support, others have shown different ways to help those affected in the community.

“I want to shed some light on our Mater Dei community. I’m so thankful to my colleagues for being so concerned and compassionate during this time,” Thomas said. “Mrs. Schulte, Mrs. Novak, and Ms. Upham all offered for my family to stay at their houses. Additionally, Ms. Clare emailed Ms. Waldron and I over that weekend to check on how our families were doing. I am constantly blessed by my community at Mater Dei.”