Sheltering a community in need

Jose Gonzalez, Staff Writer

More than 15 shelters opened for evacuees this week and Santa Rosa Junior College students were there to help in the aftermath of the Sonoma County fires.

The fire that started on Oct. 9 in Calistoga hit Santa Rosa the following Monday morning. People had to evacuate with little to no notice whatsoever. Some were unable to grab any belongings. Hundreds have lost their homes and now have nowhere to go. Shelters continue to be open to those who have been evacuated or lost their homes.

Shelters opened up from the Cloverdale Citrus Fair to the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael. SRJC student Joel Anguiano, 19, helped at the Healdsburg Community Center.  “Volunteering gives me satisfaction of being useful in times of need, and it keeps me informed on the situation,” Anguiano said.

Anguiano volunteered to work the night shift, assuring people were safe by walking the evacuation perimeter to guard against looters.

Healdsburg Community Center opened Monday afternoon for evacuees. Cristal Lopez, 20, a third-year SRJC student, was on site and has been helping at the shelter since the first night. Lopez, a Healdsburg City employee, took the lead position at night and in the mornings, coordinating volunteers and ensuring evacuees were provided necessities at the shelter.

Lopez said, “In devastating moments like this, I ask that we all stay safe and well-informed.”

The Healdsburg Community Center received more than 150 evacuees who stayed the night this week. Cloverdale Citrus Fair had more than 100 people a night.

Yaquelin Buenrostro, 21, an SRJC business management major, volunteered at the Cloverdale shelter. “Seeing elderly people who have special needs and don’t have capabilities of caring for themselves being brought into the shelter was really heartbreaking,” Buenrostro said. “It’s very scary to know how much damage it’s done and to know that it’s still not controlled.”

Buenrostro was serving meals and organizing supplies for the evacuees.

Volunteers have been touched by others.  

“The most impacting stories come from those who have lost everything and are still willing to volunteer,” Lopez said. “My heart breaks for all those that have been impacted by this tragedy, but I know that Sonoma County will unite and overcome this.” Shelters continue to be open to those who have  been evacuated or lost their home.

Shelters around the county include:

  • Analy High School
  • Bodega Bay Grange Hall
  • Bodega Bay Union Church
  • Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds
  • Church of Christ
  • Finley Community Center: Santa Rosa Recreation & Parks
  • Healdsburg Community Center
  • Lawrence Cook Middle School
  • Guerneville Veterans Hall
  • Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
  • Monte Rio Elementary School
  • New Life Christian Fellowship
  • Petaluma Fairgrounds Park & Ride
  • Sonoma County Fairgrounds
  • Elsie Allen High School
  • Sonoma Valley High School
  • Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial
  • Windsor High School