Valley trio delivers $6,000 to Paradise
December 21, 2018
More than $6,000 in gift cards donated to Carson Valley FFA students were delivered to Paradise, Calif., fire victims.
"I made a promise that I would personally hand-deliver all the cards to residents," Douglas High FFA adviser Robin Futch said.
While most of the gift cards came in from Carson Valley, Futch said an article in The Record-Courier prompted donations from as far away as Arizona and Illinois.
The Nov. 8 Camp Fire burned nearly 14,000 homes and 528 businesses in Paradise, Calif., killing 86 residents.
Futch, and students Noelle MacDonnell and Ryan Olson, went to Paradise on Dec. 15 to deliver the cards.
Futch said she was concerned about handing the cards to anyone but residents, so she went to Paradise to find them.
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"How were we going to get past the checkpoint?" she asked herself at the time. "Only residents were being allowed to pass, and we certainly didn't qualify as residents."
Olson said a prayer as they approached the checkpoint. Futch told the officer they were part of the relief effort and showed him the box of gift cards and that was sufficient for them to pass.
As they entered Paradise, the trio was stunned at the devastation.
"I've seen the pictures and the videos on the news, but this is different," Olson said. "The pictures don't show how it really is."
MacDonnell pointed out the few structures still standing, untouched by fire and looking out of place.
Futch said the road had only opened to residents that morning, so many residents were seeing what as left of their homes for the first time.
The trio decided to drive around and look for people to give the cards.
They introduced themselves and explained their reason for being among the burned homes.
"Through tears, hugs and conversation, we found a connection with every person we spoke to," Futch said. "So it went for four hours as we traveled through the neighborhoods."
They talked to one couple, who found the remains of their pets in their home's ashes.
"We heard and felt the utter relief from the mom, whose biggest fear was getting home in front of the fire to rescue her son, who had been home alone," Futch said. "We witnessed faith, as people shared with us their wonder at how the only thing unscathed in their home as their nativity scene that was in place for Christmas."
There was humor among the ashes as well as sorrow and wonder.
"I find it really ironic that we are handing out all these gift cards from a fire starter box," McConnell pointed out.
She spent the rest of the time trying to cover up the picture on the box.
"I'm not sure if I have ever witnessed such appreciation as when these people received the gift cards," Futch said. "They were shocked that we would come all the way from Nevada. Many of them expressed that it was really nice to know that people outside their own community cared about them."