Collection center set up in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Chico. (Photo/Courtesy Chico Hillel-Kristy Collins)
Collection center for supplies for fire victims set up in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Chico, Nov. 2018. (Photo/Courtesy Chico Hillel-Kristy Collins)

JCC Sonoma collects 1,300 coats for fire victims

The JCC of Sonoma County has been overwhelmed the past two weeks — with coats, massive piles of them donated for people in fire-ravaged Butte County.

The need to help out is something residents of Sonoma County understand well, after going through their own trauma last year during the catastrophic fires in Santa Rosa.

“The JCC reaching out in both disasters this year and last year to the non-Jewish community is extraordinary,” said board member Lynne Belmont.

It started when donations came in for Jewish families who had lost homes in the October 2017 Tubbs Fire. The JCC received 50 baskets of Judaica at the time. Some were left over, so Belmont recently got executive director Ellen Blustein’s OK to offer them to Chico’s Congregation Beth Israel and Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Chico State University.

While those gifts were appreciated, it turned out that what was really needed was cold-weather coats in an area where the temperature can drop into the 30s in winter. So the JCC put out the call on social media.

“One the first day, we got over 400 coats,” Belmont said. “And then they kept coming and coming and coming.”

In the end, they collected more than 1,300 new or nearly new warm coats. They stopped accepting donations at the JCC, which is run out of an office in Santa Rosa, because they had reached capacity.

Rabbi Sara Abrams of Beth Israel said all of the gifts that have flooded in from around the state have been meaningful, from gift cards to Judaica items to replace those lost in the fire.

“This is really from the generosity of outside Jewish communities,” she said.

The synagogue planned to hand out the coats on Dec. 13, along with $10,000 worth of $100 gift cards donated by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

“We’re hoping people will come by,” Abrams said with a laugh. “Otherwise we’re going to have a lot of coats on our hands!”

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.