By Will Washburn & Jillian Robertson
Firefighters come from far away to battle wildfires burning across the state. This means faster response to out of control blazes, but it also means long separations from friends and loved ones. The Red Cross Central Valley chapter is working to change that.
Katrina Poitras, Red Cross Central Valley Disaster Program Manager, and Laura Norman, president of Eastern Madera-Mariposa Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (VOAD), partnered two years ago to launch the Postcard Project. The project provides postcards to family and loved ones of firefighters, then gathers stamps donated from the community, and delivers them to the men and women on the front lines.
Since its creation, the program has sent postcards from loved ones to firefighters responding to multiple fires, including last year’s Detwiler fire, and from the look of things, the program will live on long after this year’s fire season is over. Most recently, it gathered and delivered 1,500 postcards from family and friends of firefighters battling the Ferguson blaze near Yosemite National Park. Another 1,500 are currently being distributed.
Local businesses, including resorts and hotels saved by previous fires donated thousands of postcards, which featured pictures of Mariposa, Yosemite, and Bass Lake, and members of the community donated stamps, making this project truly of and by the community it serves.
The postcards were even stamped, in many cases, by the evacuees themselves to give to the firefighters, according to Lynn Northrup, a Red Cross emergency vehicle driver and Mariposa government liaison.
“What was special about the project was that even though there was a fire in our area, the postcards were a reminder to come back and visit when it was beautiful again [like it was pictured on the postcards].”
Poitras hopes to expand the program nationally, to include first responders not only to wildfires, but also to hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters across the country.
To support the program by donating postcard stamps, click here.