• California Strong Distributes Third Round of Grant Money to Woolsey Fire Victims

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    March 08, 2021
    Nearly 2 1/2 years after the Woolsey Fire destroyed hundreds of homes in Southern California, many families are still impacted by the fire. On March 2, over $330,000 in gift cards was distributed to 88 families as they continue to recover from the fire. The funds were granted to the Southeast Ventura County YMCA by the Ventura County Community Foundation and distributed by California Strong, a program of the Y that provides financial support to victims after disasters. The grant money was distributed at the Yarrow Family YMCA in Westlake Village.

    "It was our hope to reconnect with our California Strong family who survived the Woolsey Fire in 2018 and to be supportive of their continued recovery," says California Strong Director Mollie Vehling. "Hosting the drive-thru distribution was an incredible opportunity to not only share resources, but to share smiles, listening ears, positive energy and love. Their struggle over the past 2 years and 3 months has been hard, but this was a happy day." 

    A majority of the recipients are still living locally and working hard to rebuild. Many received assistance over two years ago when California Strong distributed two rounds of funding. The organization reached out again at the beginning of this year to see who still needed additional assistance. The responses were overwhelming.
    Survivors report they continue to struggle with rebuilding their homes and securing permanent housing and furniture replacements. In addition, many are seeking financial and legal advice, as well as emotional and spiritual support. 

    "Our very foundation has been strengthened by California Strong. As the grateful recipients of an unexpected gift, nearly two and a half years after our home burned to the ground in the Woolsey Fire, our faith that we can indeed rebuild has been revived. The continued support from California Strong has sustained our hope and strengthened us for the job ahead," says John and Kimberlee Kayton, whose home was destroyed in the fire.

    "We feel incredibly fortunate to be able to continue to assist people in our community in a time of need. We are grateful for the backing we’ve received from the community, local businesses and families, which has allowed us to have a far greater impact than we could have ever dreamed of when we started California Strong in 2018," says California Strong co-founder, Ryan Braun. 

    California Strong partnered with the Ventura County Long Term Disaster Recovery Group (VCLTDRG) and additional local organizations including the Local Love Project and Interface/211 Ventura to obtain assistance to households who need it most.

    "For many, survivors’ insurance funds are exhausted, savings and retirement accounts have been spent and other assistance has dried up. Help was needed now." says Anne Whatley, Director of the VCLTDRG. "The aim was to provide assistance to as many of these cases as possible. This network of organizations who have been assisting survivors since the fires occurred were able to identify households that are still hurting. We are grateful to Ventura County Community Foundation for providing the funds." 

    California Strong is also working to connect the survivors with resources to help support their continued recovery including contractor consultants, legal and mental health resources, and more. The gift cards distributed on March 2 will help the survivors pay their bills, continue and complete rebuilding their homes and maintain their properties and landscaping.

    For more about California Strong, go to www.californiastrong.org.

    California Strong
    California Strong founders include professional baseball players and California natives Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas, Mike Attanasio of the Milwaukee Brewers ownership group and Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff. They joined forces with the Southeast Ventura County YMCA to create California Strong after the Borderline shooting and California fires in November 2018. The organization is committed to providing immediate financial support to victims whenever a disaster strikes anywhere in the state. For more information about California Strong or to donate, visit www.californiastrong.org or call Southeast Ventura County YMCA, 805-497-3081.
    Ventura County Community Foundation
    The Ventura County Community Foundation is a charitable foundation committed to promoting and enabling philanthropy, and building long term capital to benefit Ventura County. Its four primary roles are to be a careful steward of the funds entrusted to its care, a long term partner dedicated to donor intent, and effective grant maker focusing on the needs of nonprofits and of the community, and a community leader and convener, focusing on the common good. https://vccf.org/
    Danielle Hutchison, Director of Marketing and Programs
    dhutchison@sevymca.org, 805-497-9081 x102