Providing some ‘Homes for the Holidays’

Locals rally to send RVs, trailers to victims displaced by Camp Fire

Providing some ‘Homes for the Holidays’Michael and Tammy Jones, with Rachel’s husband Tom Dorfmeister, hold warm blankets, a TV and an X-Box 360 — just some of the donations along with the travel trailer headed north to house a family displaced by the Camp Fire — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

Local educator Rachel Dorfmeister has expressed her altruism during the holiday season ever since she was a young girl. So she couldn’t help thinking about a way she could help provide shelter for the thousands displaced following the devastating Camp Fire in Northern California.

“Could I raise enough money to provide an RV to a family?” she asked herself. “Is that ridiculous? Christmas is in just a few weeks —do I even have time?”

Well, the answer was “yes” because by Wednesday morning, Dorfmeister and other locals had sent one travel trailer – fully stocked with bedding, household supplies and some Christmas gifts – north to Magalia, Calif., with their sights set on three more temporary mobile residences.

Dorfmeister set up her “Homes for the Holidays” GoFundMe fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 1, with the aim to raise $5,000 to buy an RV and send it north to a family in need. But the endeavor quickly grew into something more as members of the community began volunteering their support, household items and even their RVs.

“From the time I was a very little girl, my mom always took me shopping at Christmas-time and let me chose two presents – one for a girl and one for a boy,” said Dorfmeister, who grew up in Amityville, N.Y. “We would wrap them up and drive out to the Little Flower Children’s Home on Long Island. It was a special Christmas tradition that instilled in me the true definition of humanity. And I guess that is why this time of year I always feel so compelled to show that love and kindness to others.

“I can’t even imagine waking up to a wasteland that was once my town, my home, my community. It’s so incredibly devastating. And I lay my head on my nice warm pillow at night, praying for strangers I don’t even know and thanking God for what I do have. I wanted to do something, and I kept going back to the fact that there always seem to be hundreds of RVs for sale within Southern California.”

The Jones family was the first to chime in, when they told Dorfmeister she could have their fifth-wheel travel trailer. It needed new tires so she contacted Motion Tire and after she explained the situation, they donated the tires.

“Our son used to live in it, but it’s just been sitting there doing nothing,” said Michael Jones.

“It would be selfish of me to think I could get money for this when somebody needs it so badly,” added his wife Tammy.

Dorfmeister said she had the trailer before she even knew what to do with it. “How do I find a family? How do I go about doing this?” she asked herself.

While researching her options, she came across James Faircloth, a Colorado man who started a nonprofit organization (@RV4CampfireFams on Twitter) for the very purpose of providing RVs and trailers to Camp Fire victims. Dorfmeister was able to get in touch with families through Faircloth’s organization, and the first home has reached a 63-year-old grandmother and her 10-year-old grandson.

“We loaded it up with sheets, comforters, coffee pots, a Christmas tree, everything,” said Dorfmeister. “The grandson said his X-Box was his ‘prized possession’ so somebody donated an X-Box and a TV. And the grandmother loves to cook so we have pots, pans and knives, and we filled the pantry with all kinds of food.”

Dorfmeister posted an update on Facebook on Wednesday after the trailer arrived at its destination.

“I love my new home,” said the grandmother in a message to Dofrmeister. “I am no longer homeless and living in the back of my Honda. I really thought that was it. I need tissues. A million blessings to all of you as you head on down the road. Sending love and prayers. And I couldn’t resist telling [my grandson] about the X-Box – he was screaming over the phone!”

Since then, Dorfmeister’s connections have “come out of the woodwork” to contribute.

“Kim Duff, another local, said she has a 1978 Santa Fe and her crew of people are cleaning it, doing maintenance, stocking it and getting it all prepped while we find a family to match them with,” said Dorfmeister. “Tammy [Jones] also has a friend from San Diego who is interested in donating an RV as well.”

Dorfmeister has used some of the GoFundMe money to offset preparations on the Jones’ trailer, but is still working toward getting the original RV she set out to purchase.

“A lot of the charities are saying they have warehouses full of food and clothes. But what these people need most is shelter,” said Dorfmeister. “Shelter is a basic human need, and these people just don’t have it.”

For updates and more information, find “Homes for the Holidays: RVs for Paradise families” on gofundme.com.

Story First Published: 2018-12-07