Local agencies get quake relief

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Local agencies benefitted from the majority of nearly $115,000 in earthquake relief grants awarded last Friday by the Kern Community Foundation.

“It is exactly three months to the day since the first of three large earthquakes and countless aftershocks struck Ridgecrest, China Lake and surrounding areas, causing damage to local homes, businesses and government installations, and displacing entire families who continue to struggle to this day,” said a foundation spokesperson.

The foundation was able to award $114,875 to eight nonprofit agencies, which responded within 24 hours of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake.

Awardees include High Desert Lighthouse Ministries ($28,000), Salvation Army ($28,000), Women’s Center High Desert ($28,000), Desert Area Resources and Training ($11,476), China Lake Museum Foundation ($10,000), Almost Eden Rescue ($1,500) and Socks & Paws Animal Rescue ($1,500).

Major Evadne Wright of the Salvation Army said that although the needs arising from the earthquakes varied greatly, one of the aspects Salvation Army has focused on has been finding permanent placement for people who lost their homes.

With an already impacted housing and rental market, that has been a challenge. However, Salvation Army has been able to serve in several ways, she said. “It might be paying utility bills so that people can get back into their homes. It may be assisting with deposits … we are evaluating on a case-by-case basis.”

Like many relief organizations, the Salvation Army focused on meeting immediate needs in the wake of the earthquakes — depleting some of their resources in the process.

Some of the grant money will be used to replace food and other items donated to help people get back on their feet, she said.

“Some people who were displaced — especially those who lost everything in the fires — are still in recovery. We have replaced everything from household items to furniture to clothing. And people still need help.”

Wright said that as the Salvation Army gears up for its holiday food basket program, she expects the dual stresses this year of unprecedented need coupled with cash-strapped donors.

“This is a very generous community. A lot of people who contribute to the holiday food basket program every year may not be in a position to, because they gave so much during the earthquake,” she said.

Some may even be in need of assistance themselves this year.

One thing Wright said her agency is working on is collaborating with other grantees to make sure that resources are spent to help the greatest number of people possible.

Carol Beecroft of the Women’s Center agreed. “In fact, I am about to meet with some other people to make sure we are covering all the needs.”

Like the Salvation Army, the Women’s Center was working to serve clients despite sustaining damage to its own headquarters.

“It was kind of crazy,” recalled Beecroft. However, staff members — even those coping with their own stresses and anxieties — “put on a brave face to make sure we helped our clients get through it.”

Most of the grant money will be used to recover costs incurred in helping with everything from paying rent to providing housing to hiring trucks to towing trailers to safety.

“We used a lot of our general funds to help with all the immediate needs,” said Beecroft. “We wanted to share what we had.”

Beecroft and her staff handed out everything from blankets to toiletries to food in the wake of the crisis.

“We also observed very high levels of anxiety and stress,” she said.

Counselors reported that, especially among those already suffering, the unpredictibility of the earthquakes triggered past traumas and fears.

Clients were seeking restraining orders at unprecedented levels, “and a lot of them were related to these fears and anxieties,” said Beecroft.

While the demands for service have settled down somewhat, the grants will provide welcome relief for replacing and repairing what was lost during and after the earthquakes.

“The needs of the Ridgecrest community were so varied and critical after this horrible event, it was simply mind-boggling,” said KCF Board Member Justin Leland, who participated in the grants evaluation and allocation committee.

Story First Published: 2019-10-11