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Marci Sischo | 10/01/2020 | Archived

Benton County rallied to assist those affected by the 2020 Oregon wildfires this September.

This past September Oregon faced deeply frightening wildfires and those living in Benton County stepped up to help their fellow Oregonians in their time of need.

While conditions in Benton County were less than ideal during the wildfires, we were blessed that our community was able to provide a safe haven to others. We stayed glued to our community Facebook groups and the local news, watching the fires in nearby communities, wondering how we could help.

Then the Benton County Fairgrounds and local lodging properties were activated as overflow centers for evacuees, and Benton County jumped in to assist.

Donations, organized and ready to be delivered, at the Benton County Fairgrounds, in September 2020. Photo by Christina Rehklau.Donations, organized and ready to be delivered, at the Benton County Fairgrounds, in September 2020. Photo by Christina Rehklau.  It's On Us Corvallis, a local non-profit that was created during the initial COVID-19 stay home orders to provide free meals to anyone in Benton County while supporting our restaurants, pivoted to feeding people who were evacuated to Benton County during the September wildfires. They raised over $65,000 in only a few days, and provided 8,000 meals to wildfire evacuees in Benton County. They partnered with local restaurants and farmers and coordinated with area hotels and other helpers to cook and deliver meals and boxes of fresh food all over Corvallis. You can read all about their efforts right here.

Lodgings around Corvallis and Benton County stepped up to house evacuees. Marti Staprans Barlow, of HospitalityVision, partnered with these hotels to arrange donations and raise over $3000 through GoFundMe to buy gas cards and pre-paid VISA gift cards for evacuees.

The Vice President of Benton County’s Rodeo Committee, Katie Schrock, opened a Facebook group, Cowgirl 911, to coordinate rescuing, moving, housing, and caring for livestock from fire-affected areas. She created a dispatch system and got it all up and running in just one day. By Sept. 13, Schrock estimated that the group of 17,000 members had helped over 20,000 animals.

The City of Corvallis and Benton County opened BentonCountyWildfireResponse.Recovers.org to coordinate donations of clothes and other needed items, and received an "overwhelming" response from the community. Donations were so plentiful that they exceeded the need of evacuees in Benton County, and the City and County were able to send the overflow on to other communities and the statewide distribution center.

We even had a superhero and a princess show up to cheer everyone up, thanks to Riverbend Character Parties and Events!

And these were only a few of the efforts going on all around Benton County to help out wildfire evacuees. Many smaller donation drives were undertaken in outlying communities like Alsea, Philomath, Monroe, and Adair, flooding local non-profits like the Vina Moses Center with donations of new and used items for evacuees. Benton County residents opened their properties to campers, coordinated pick-ups and deliveries of donated items to drop-off centers, started Facebook groups to help reunite owners with pets lost during evacuations, and more.

I never fail to be humbled and awestruck by the generosity and motivation of Corvallis and Benton County. It is truly amazing and inspiring to be a part of this community.

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Please Note: Benton County, Oregon, is currently rated "High Risk" according to Oregon's new COVID-19 safety framework. Learn what this means for you. Masks are required for those 5 years old and above in all indoor public spaces and in outdoor public spaces where a physical distance of at least six feet cannot be maintained. Travelers are advised to stay home. Businesses may be operating with altered hours, requiring appointments, and/or have additional safety requirements in place. Please call ahead to businesses you're interested in visiting to confirm if they're open and what they're requiring.
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