Thanksgiving sparks gratitude

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

As we enter into the season of thanksgiving, we solicited input from our community to reflect the stories of gratitude that arose out of our historic earthquake sequence.

Following a 6.4-magnitude quake on July 4 and a 7.1 on July 5, the community rallied to help families, friends and neighbors through the long process of recovery from damage, disruption and ongoing stress-induced trauma.

While hundreds were temporarily displaced from their damaged homes, and several minor to moderate injuries were reported, the overall assessment was that our community had survived the death and destruction wrought by lesser earthquakes in Southern California.

Nearly five months after the earthquakes hit, many families are still waiting to get back into permanent quarters. Businesses are still making the necessary repairs to return to full service. And perhaps most notably, China Lake is awaiting word on how it will fund billions in repairs.

But for the most part, individuals have found places to stay, services have returned, schools have reopened and residents are counting their blessings with renewed gratitude this year.

Among the heroes who arose out of disaster were the many public safety and emergency service providers — from within our own community as well as from our neighboring agencies.

“At Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, we take pride in being there for our community’s healthcare needs,” said CEO Jim Suver.

“July’s unexpected events may have forced us into evacuation and temporary closure, but our community pulled together, stood firm and were determined to be there for our hospital in its hour of need.”

Suver noted that the hospital witnessed a tremendous outpouring of support from the community and its business partners, as well as city, county and state officials.

“The dedication and commitment from our own employees and volunteers were unparalleled,” he said. “We truly appreciate the sacrifices that were made around the clock by our employees and recognize the selfless efforts of our hospital heroes, in caring for our community and getting the hospital back up and running again.”

Countless businesses, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, Walmart, Big 5 and Home Depot, contributed food, drinks and other supplies during the hospital’s emergency response and recovery efforts.

“We cannot begin to thank everyone enough for caring for us, so that we could continue to care for you.”

Brent Clark Palmer, president of the Friends of the Ridgecrest Library, was one of the witnesses to community generosity toward afflicted businesses. When the library experienced the total devastation of displacement, the community came in with a flood of donated books, and Bertrand Enterprises stepped up to provide the necessary storage.

“Bertrand’s took care of our needs in a way even above what we would expect from our dearest friends,” said Palmer. “He has sustained us when we needed it most and allowed us to continue our fundraising operations for library programs, furniture, equipment and books for our local learners and borrowers, young and old.”

Ridgecrest Branch Librarian Charissa Wagner noted that the library itself had immense gratitude “for the many volunteers who showed up to help with our massive reshelving efforts,” she said.

“We are also grateful for the support from places near and far, whether it was people checking in on us, offering to come and help or giving donations of money or items.”

She thanked in particular Dr. Jiselle Esparza and Acupuncturists Without Borders “for their roles in helping our community heal … as we all continue to heal in our own ways, we do not forget the thoughtful gestures of kindness shown to us.”

Frank Montenegro, along with his wife Sabby and daughter Sophia, were among those who lost their home in the earthquake.

“We would just like to say thank you to all the wonderful people and to Ridgecrest for helping us,” he said. “Especially the wonderful friends and families associated with Ridgecrest Musical Enrichment Society. Truly, these people exemplify what it means to be salt and light.

“We are so very grateful for each and every one of you beautiful people. Thank you for making us part of your family.”

Pat Caudill, whose home sustained more than $100,000 in damages as a result of earthquakes, shared a story that reflect how during nearly every moment of their journey, someone stepped up to assist them.

As a 100-percent disabled veteran and former Marine, Caudill noted that his family was on a tight budget. Without assistance from the disaster, they would have been forced from their home.

“We are grateful for the Lighthouse on Balsam Street.” It was there she met Ruth Moody, who connected the family to the Kern County Housing Program Manager, who helped them procure a 0-interest loan and deferred payments to pay for their recovery.

The county inspector for working with the family so that they could stay in their home while it underwent repairs. Then the Lions Club paid for the structural engineer who inspected their home.

Pat’s father loaned the family $10,000 to help cover immediate expenses. The Small Business Administration provided a cash loan of $25,000 to cover the remaining balance for repairs.

Members of Crossroads Community Church stepped up to offer assistance with labor and demo projects. The Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors covered a monthly mortgage payment.

“We are grateful to the many other people who have provided us with money, resources, prayer, an ear to listen to our fears and insecurities and those who have encouraged us in our faith,” he wrote.

“But mostly, we are grateful to our Father in Heaver for His promise to us.”

In 2017, following his mother’s passing, the family sold their home in Ohio and moved here to improve his mother’s home, which was in a state of disrepair. After realizing the home could be condemned — leaving them homeless and financially ruined, they sought God’s insight through prayer.

“Here is what He told us:

“‘I understand your concerns and fears. However, be of great courage and fear not. The condition of your home, your vehicles, your finances, they will all be in a much better state after all of the dust settles. I am not telling you what that is going to look like and I will not tell you how long it will be nor will I tell you what the process is going to look like. However, if you trust me, if you act as though these things are true, you will not be disappointed.’”

The Caudill family did, and continues still, to put their faith in that promise, said Caudill. Some days, he said, are easier than others.

“Since then, we have been given more than we could have ever imagined.

“So thank you, God, for your promise, and thank you, Ridgecrest, for being a part of our story and our joy!”

Story First Published: 2019-11-27