Thousands of pounds of food, clothing and household supplies are in the hands of hundreds of victims of the Valley and Butte fires this week thanks to former Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and former Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio.
Although out of political life, at least for now, they and their spouses and friends have pitched in for more than two weeks to collect and carry supplies from Pleasanton to relief staging areas near the fires.
Hosterman took the initiative after she saw television reports of families fleeing from the Valley Fire with their homes burning in the background. Her years of public service reminded her of the immediate needs of people facing disasters. With a large gathering of "Friends" on Facebook and leaders of local charities, she began posting messages urging them to help with donations that could be left in her open garage. The response was quick and overwhelming.
To make sure her garage didn't become a Goodwill-type of a drop-off, Hosterman posted lists of needs the fire victims were posting themselves: baby diapers, wipes and formula, water, juice in cartons, canned prepared food (chili, stew, canned pastas), pasta, rice, single-serve snacks, granola bars, canned meat, tuna, peanut butter, toiletries, shampoos, razors, soaps, deodorant, paper plates, paper towels, disposable cups, adult diapers, non-prescription drugs such as aspirin and Tylenol, cosmetics and even sunscreen because many are spending days outsides in tents at relief centers, including the Napa County Fairgrounds.
The fairgrounds is where she and business friend Rick Dobbs, who owns The Last Word restaurant and bar in Livermore as well as a truck and trailer, drove with one load of piled-high supplies.
Still, there were complications. The Red Cross told Hosterman not to come; it just wanted money, not goods. The fairgrounds turned out to be closed to anyone who was not a fire victim, so Hosterman and Dobbs found a house across the street where volunteers were already ignoring the Red Cross mandate and accepting what fire victims desperately needed the basics that were in their kitchens, medicine cabinets and dresser drawers that had burned to the ground.
Among those who helped offload the supplies were three women, two whose homes were gone and a third who had yet to find out. They said victims can't wait for the Red Cross, they need the supplies now. "Thank you Pleasanton," one told Hosterman. "If you folks are ever in need, you can be sure we'll help you out."
Cook-Kallio and her husband John joined in, delivering 600 pounds of nonperishable food to the Interfaith Food Bank in Jackson to benefit the victims of the Butte Fire. "People are so grateful for the help," the former councilwoman posted on her Facebook page after returning from Jackson. "Thus far, 800 homes lost and everyone evacuated without anything from their refrigerators and freezers."
With these two fires mostly contained, Hosterman said the victims' needs will continue. It will be months before insurance settlements and the work of rebuilding begin. While some can board with others for the time being, many don't have have families nearby and will need local accommodations. They have jobs in the area, children in local schools and will need continued help in the coming winter months.
Hosterman will continue her efforts, but as a real estate agent with Pleasanton's Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, she has a plateful of responsibilities at her day job. She's hoping that this initiative has sparked interest by others in Pleasanton to pitch in and help.
As Hosterman posted on Facebook: "Together we can help!"