Lending a helping hand from Bremerton to Redding

Aug 7, 2018 | by Annette Griffus

The devastation that has wrecked havoc on Northern California by a deadly wildfire has also brought out the best in Kitsap residents.

The Salvation Army Bremerton Corps sent a response team to the Carr Fire in Redding, California, earlier this week.

The five-person team — Major Scott Ramsey, Ed Babine, Victor Vaona, Lisa Chatelle, and April Phillips — have been working 15 hour days helping the residents in Shasta County and beyond.

“All five of us arrived Monday at noon,” Major Ramsey said by phone Friday afternoon. “We reported to Shasta College and 30 minutes upon arrival we were serving or cleaning.”

The Salvation Army is one of the first, if not the first, non-law enforcement personnel on the scene of a disaster whenever they are needed throughout the country. While the Red Cross is able to designate schools, government buildings and churches as evacuation shelters in various neighborhoods, it’s The Salvation Army that provides food, water and other services to evacuees.

The Carr Fire is now one of California’s largest with more than 1,060 homes lost and still more structures threatened. Six people have died.

The Bremerton Corps supplies one of five of The Salvation Army’s mobile canteen vehicles at Trinity High School in Weaverville. The Bremerton Corps is able to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to anyone in the community in need and at Red Cross shelters including Foothills High School, Shasta Community College, Simpson University and Crosspoint Church.

Major Ramsey praised his group, adding Vaona — who is the maintenance and operations manager at the Bremerton Corps — was instrumental in making sure The Salvation Army was adhering to food-handling procedures and secured a refrigeration truck for perishables. Babine has been doing the yeoman’s work of driving meals to different locals while Phillips and Chatelle have been serving meals and doing whatever is asked of them, Ramsey said.

“They’re doing great, they really are,” he said. “I get compliments from the other officers about our Bremerton people,” he said.

Hundreds of volunteers and other grassroots organizations have descended on Redding and outlying towns to help provide food for displaced residents including Mercy Kitchens, a Christian organization out of Virginia, Bethel Church of Redding, Operation BBQ Relief of Kansas and Food Network star Guy Fieri and his team who partnered with The Salvation Army during last year’s Santa Rosa, California, fire.

Major Ramsey said Bethel Church took over the organization of donations that came flooding in via semi trucks from all over the country.

“It’s a beehive of activity,” he said.

The activity has changed from the initial stage of emergency/life-saving to sheltering and in some cases recovery. The Bremerton group is part of the second stage that helps set up for the long haul of sheltering and recovery as homeowners’ insurance claims start to come through and evacuation orders are lifted by local law enforcement.

The Bremerton Corps is scheduled to return August 8. Donations can be made to gosalarmy.org

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