Feb 27, 2019
by Beth Rudometkin
Jamie Whitelaw stands about 5’4” and is all but 100 pounds if even, is my guess, but she carries the weight of displaced families from Sonoma County to Shasta and every town in between! She is the grooviest person you could ever meet!
In October of 2017, her husband Tyler went to work in Santa Rosa, and she woke up to his call stating he wasn’t sure if he could make it home. “Santa Rosa is on fire”….the words went straight to her heart and broke it. She lied awake and thought of all of the people who were fleeing for their lives, with only the clothing on their backs…nowhere to go…just escape the fire, run for your life! She couldn’t stand it….she had to do something! She phoned her best friend, Jen McCourtney and said, “Let’s go help”. They immediately gathered items and food and went to the fire zone to help anyone they could, as well as feeding the Firefighters. People started calling her, asking how they could help, what was their biggest need and then the outpouring spread wider and wider.
That was the beginning of North Bay Donate. When Jamie returned home, she literally broke down. You see, Jamie is a survivor! She is a cancer survivor who is living with Fibromyalgia on a daily basis in constant pain, that is spread throughout her body. She lives in Cazadero, is a wife, a proud mother of two boys and you guessed it, EL MOLINO alumni. I first met Jamie when she was just a pre-teen, as she went to school with my boys. Her mom, Patti C., is well known here in Guerneville and has a full family history in the area, so yeah, they are tough! Like all of our groovy River Rats, tough and resilient, with the biggest hearts you will ever find. I asked Jamie how she does it all….her answer, “My heart is full, which takes my mind off of the pain. Every family takes a little piece of us with them and that’s ok, as that is the stepping stone that helped them along their way to survival”.
As North Bay Donate grew, it was obvious that they needed to be a 501(c)(3) and create a website and get more organized. There was a need to connect evacuees with resources and to mobilize the right donations. So, she reached out to her alumni, family and friends. Of course, she found volunteers immediately to help create the Non-Profit they are today. Patti C. (mom), Thomas V. (tech ops wizard), Sherman (first donor of HUGE capacity, main advisor), Kimberly (tech & right hand who will do anything), Ashley Armstrong (designer of “Russian River Strong” t-shirts and set up of Bonfire page which has raised over $800 to date for flood survivors) and many, many, many volunteers!
What sets North Bay Donate apart? They don’t throw $200 at a survivor and move on. They spend countless hours of delivering items to survivors all over Northern California, sit and hold their hands, listen to people’s stories, hug, cry and just be silent with them. They are 7 fires in… Butte County alone will take a minimum of 2 years to rebound; possibly up to 5. These volunteers are in it for the long haul. 80% of their volunteers are survivors who are now giving back. “We’ve gone full circle; we are proof that it is possible!” While Jamie is here handling the flood intake coordinating and donations, Patti is handling the fire survivors. She loads up her truck and drives to Oroville, Red Bluff, Paradise, Redding, Chico, you name it, spending countless hours with people, offering anything she is capable of giving.
This group has created custom care packages for many who have endured fire, flood or both. They have found people jobs; provided the tools for some to go back to work, found temporary housing for some….Patti says “It’s all about dignity. These people have lost everything”. That is why they ask donations to be new or like new; “Would you wrap it up and give it to a close family member that you love?” I asked Jamie what was needed now. The donated facility she is working out of on the corner of Woodland Drive and Armstrong Woods Rd is filling up quickly, but what specific items are needed now? “Kitchenware….cups, glasses, dish sets, silverware….these people have nothing to eat with”.
Please go to their website http://www.nbdonate.org for the link to complete an intake form if you are in need of assistance or want to donate via PayPal. There is a link for their registry at Amazon and Walmart as well. They need volunteers to work at the donation center here in town; please reach out to Jamie at email@example.com or call her at 707-806-7946.
Watch for the band TankCrimes, who is releasing their new song called “Monte Rio” as all proceeds are going to North Bay Donate!! The new Extended Player titled RussianRiverReliefFund is being donated by this band and their record label out of Oakland. Also, thank you to Mendolake Complex Fire Relief for your donation to flood survivors in our area! Jamie Whitelaw, thank you for being the grooviest person in the West County!
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