Gateway: News

Gig Harbor community opens hearts, wallets for wildfire victims

City of Gig Harbor Municipal Court Clerk Sarah Neighbors readies donated supplies that were set to be transported to the front lines of the wildfire in eastern Washington on Friday. Donated items included non-perishable food, new socks, baby wipes and many other useful supplies for weary fire crews.
City of Gig Harbor Municipal Court Clerk Sarah Neighbors readies donated supplies that were set to be transported to the front lines of the wildfire in eastern Washington on Friday. Donated items included non-perishable food, new socks, baby wipes and many other useful supplies for weary fire crews. Staff photographer

A Gig Harbor contingent of volunteers delivered about 27,000 pounds of supplies and more than $3,100 in cash and gift cards Friday evening to help firefighters and victims of the eastern Washington wildfires.

The collection was organized by Darrell Winans, Wastewater Treatment supervisor for the City of Gig Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant. Winans worked along with friends in Mason County to gather the supplies and money, filling a 53-foot semi trailer and a 12-foot cube van.

The collection drive first started in Mason County and grew until it reached Winans and his friends.

The notice asking for donations went out on social media outlets early last week with instructions for any donations to be delivered to the Gig Harbor Civic Center by 5 p.m. on Friday.

The outpouring of supplies and cash astounded organizers.

“There was a huge response from the community,” City Administrator Ron Williams said.

A similar response was seen in Mason County, where donations quickly filled the semi-trailer parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Shelton.

Winans and “an entourage” collected the supplies and drove them to eastern Washington. The group’s original destination was Okanogan, an area familiar to him and his friends from their time hunting, but they were redirected to the Stevens County Fairgrounds.

“It was pretty somber coming into the fairgrounds,” Winans said. “The looks on their faces told it all.”

The donations collected by Winans and friends filled an obvious need in the communities affected by the wildfires.

“We had a lot of stuff for everyone ... a little bit of everything,” Winans said, adding that there were supplies for firefighters, residents and even their animals.

But officials from emergency relief organizations urge caution moving forward for further support

“The challenge everyone is facing now is that we all want to help,” said Bill Fortune, a public information officer with the American Red Cross. “But people really should hold on for the recovery process ... all immediate needs are being met.”

The Red Cross doesn’t have the facilities to distribute any more supplies donated at this point — especially since most of the displaced families have no place to store the well-intentioned supplies, Fortune said.

He also has reports from the firefighters and first responders helping battle the wildfires that they are currently very well supported and not in need of further supplies.

Kim Schmanke, with the state emergency operations center out of Camp Murray, echoes Fortune’s advice.

“The most important need is monetary donations,” she said.

“Financial support will help finance ongoing needs,” said Fortune, who provides the Red Cross’s Disaster Relief Fund as an ongoing option for those looking to donate.

Another local option for Gig Harbor residents is a spaghetti feed fundraiser organized by Sound Vista Village. The fundraiser is set for 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 3) at Sound Vista Village, 6633 McDonald Ave., Gig Harbor, with event proceeds donated to the American Red Cross.

Sound Vista will also host a lemonade stand, bake sale and raffle from from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday (Sept. 4).

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