BLUE RIVER, Ore. – On Friday and Saturday, the grassroots organization Locals Helping Locals held a multi-day resource fair with around 50 organizations to help answer residents’ questions about the wildfire recovery process.
The fair marks the first time that survivors have been able to easily access resources under one roof since Lane County held a similar event in September after the Holiday Farm Fire broke out.
Mary Ellen Wheeler, who helped organize the event as a volunteer for Locals Helping Locals, said around 100 people went to the fair at McKenzie School District on Friday, and even more people were anticipated to stop by on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of people that were thinking about walking away just because of the overwhelming process of what had to be done. So, it’s our hope we can help them through those hurdles and barriers and convince them to stay,” Wheeler said.
Cheryl Friesen is one of the hundreds of people who lost their homes to the fire. She stopped by the resource fair Saturday and said it has been a challenge ever since the flames broke out.
“It’s overwhelming. Just paperwork on steroids. And trying to find a place to live. And logistics and just your basic stuff you need to survive,” Friesen said.
Carollyn and James Broom also visited the resource fair Saturday. Their home near Blue River was destroyed by the fire.
“I’ve lived up here for 59 years. Can’t imagine being anywhere else,” Carolyn Broom said.
They plan to rebuild their home as well and said they learned some valuable information at the fair.
“We did find in here that they are giving out free permits for you to put your RV on your property. So that was a good thing that we learned,” Carolyn Broom said.
For many, the decision to rebuild is deeply personal and based on many different factors.
Lane County Emergency Manager Patence Winningham said it’s also a highly variable process, depending on each person’s situation.
“There’s so many layers to recovery. No one process fits one person,” Winningham said.
Those at the fair said they are grateful for a community that has their back.
“It’s great that there’s organizations like this coming together to help people. It’s heartening. It really is,” Friesen said.
While this was the first resource fair hosted by Locals Helping Locals, it won’t be the last. More events are planned in the coming months.
Find upcoming events online here.