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When the Thomas Fire and debris flow hit our community, it was an all-too-familiar situation for my family, as we had lost our home to the Tea Fire in 2008. The worst part was knowing so many people were facing similar devastation and feeling helpless to do anything about it. Enter Bucket Brigade.

When I heard a that group of volunteers was assembling to help with recovery after the debris flow, I didn’t know what I had to offer but I knew I had to be there — to be there for those in need of help but also for myself. I needed to feel like I was part of something hopeful in the midst of all the loss. I needed to know that there were people around me who cared enough to help strangers in their time of need. I needed community. I wish my family had known these people when we went through such loss at the hands of natural disaster.

It was so healing to be one of the helpers in this situation. Sometimes all I had to offer was a smile and hug to the familiar face of shock and defeat of a survivor. I know how powerful a “me too” can be when you are in that situation, feeling so alone.

Aside from the physical work, the Bucket Brigade has done the next biggest thing we have been able to offer — standing in solidarity with the people of our community who have been affected, to say, “We’ve got your back”.

I have lead Bucket Brigade teams composed of CEOs, engineers, contractors, stay-at-home moms, colleges kids, and a homeless man who returned multiple times. We all learned that natural disaster does not discriminate. Being a part of this process and coming together despite our “differences,” as one community, has been the highlight and unforeseen silver lining of a year that has thrown many punches at us. It is so rare to see this kind of hope, and a gift to be a part of it.