The Valley Fires of Northern California in September 2015 have not just devastated over 67,000 acres of land, engulfing homes and businesses but have also inspired the town of Petaluma, California to take action and help the families and animals affected by this disaster. Being a life long resident of Petaluma, witnessing this effort of giving and helping is nothing new. I have seen many tragic events create community outreach that is only found in tall tales. All of my life, I have witnessed my community swiftly and successfully bring help to those in need.
The moment I learned about the fires I began to see social media postings from my fellow Petalumans about how they are helping. Donation drop off sites popped up all over town. Restaurants, stores, and salons donating percentages of proceeds to victims of the fires. The Petaluma Animal Shelter has taken incredible action, having had delivered their second metric ton of pet supplies to Valley Fire relief yesterday. Petco is giving 10% off discounts to those purchasing emergency supplies for donation. I went to the Dollar Store to purchase hygiene products for donation and the isles containing those products were rather empty. A Dollar Store employee told me how multitudes of people had already shopped that day for donations, wiping out their inventory. Redwood Credit Union is taking cash donations and 100% of the moneys go directly to Valley Fire relief. Jamison’s Roaring Donkey a hugely popular bar/music venue is pairing with another popular Petaluma business, Bovine Bakery, to facilitate a pizza party fundraiser.
Petaluma High School FFA (Future Farmer’s of America) is pairing with Tractor Supply Co. in efforts to collect agricultural supplies for the many displaced, thirsty, and hungry livestock. The people of Petaluma are inspired to help in any fashion.
These giving deeds are not inclusive to Petaluma solely, the entire county, in fact, the entire state I live in is supporting these efforts as well. The reach out activity I see is in my neighborhood and is what I am personally witness to, which brings to my attention the topic of Petaluma’s history of giving as I know it.
We have a history of loving to give because Petalumans know what it’s like to experience trauma and loss, we have suffered many darknesses as a community. The thing about Petaluma is we build greatness on dark and shaky foundations such as the loss of a community member, a sick or missing child, and catastrophe. We host many foundations for giving back, to name just a few of Petaluma’s give back programs: The Carousel Fund, The Polly Klaas Foundation, The Fabulous Women, The Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue Center, The Kevin Whitney Educational Scholarship Team, Mentor Me Petaluma, The Petaluma Education Foundation, Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Petaluma Bounty. These programs all began simply to lay a foundation of stability and compassion for our community for times of need. As well, these programs were all born out of loss and deep suffering. I know this because I have seen a number of these give back programs emerge from incredible pain suffered by individuals I personally know.
Our giving does not just happen during dark times, we love to give in the light also. The practice of delivering meals to a family who is welcoming a new baby is rather common place in Petaluma. A friend is moving residences, you volunteer to help them move. You get a new neighbor, you welcome them with a smile and a treat. A new business establishes themselves on the block, you stop in and become acquainted. It’s just what we do. We are a friendly giving community. The warm glow of the love Petaluma shines is rather brilliant. From great tragedy to the happiest of times, Petaluma has a beautiful way of supporting and strengthening community. The essence of giving is in the nature of our community, we can’t help it. Petalumans love one another, we love our neighboring communities, we honor and support the best of community.