Organizations come together to help 500 fire-devastated families

Kaiser Permanente and the American Red Cross teamed up in Silverton to pack 500 fire kits that will help families search for salvageable items on their property.

SILVERTON, Oregon — There was a welcome sight in the Silverton sky on Friday.

“Man, I love the rain. I’m an Oregonian, so I love the rain,” said Dale Kunce.

Here in Marion County, a community hit by wildfires got together to support each other.

“They worked super fast and they did 500 kits for 500 families in just over an hour,” said Kunce, who’s the CEO for the American Red Cross Cascade region.

From 10 a.m. to noon, volunteers from Kaiser Permanente teamed up with the Red Cross under a huge tent at Silver Creek Fellowship Church to fill bins for families that lost homes in the Santiam Fire.

“These kits include things such as hand sanitizers and trash bags and shovels,” said Nichole Powers, a clinic director for Kaiser. “For them to, uh, go basically through the ash of their homes and see if they can preserve any of their family items, heirlooms, whatever it is that they’re looking for.”

Powers and her husband Steve had friends and colleagues who had to evacuate as the fire moved. They were in a Level 2 zone just days ago. Nichole knows how lucky they are.

“I’m just really grateful to be here today, actually building the kits and being part of that effort,” said Powers.

“Seeing different parts of our community come together to lend a hand, to fill in their gap, to make a difference in somebody else’s life. That’s sort of what we do in Oregon, and it’s what we do for each other in humanity,” Kunce added.

Kaiser Permanente also donated $300,000 to the American Red Cross to help with their wildfire relief efforts across the area. “That $300,000 really makes a big difference and allows us to give more hope to people who need it,” said Kunce.

Trucks were parked next to the tent, ready to move kits to families. One truck had already made a run to Detroit Friday morning, the rest was going out by the end of the day. The volunteers want their neighbors to know that they’re supported, rain or shine.

“I’m very proud that our community has stood up in many different ways to give a big hug to those people who need it,” Kunce said.

“Any type of support you can get in a time of crisis, like this is so impactful and so important,” said Powers. “So if all I can do is build a kit for a family, I can be here to do that.”

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