The greenery of spring and summer has popped up among the acres blackened and scorched by the Center Fire in Big Pine, March 18. However, that does not mean things are going back to normal for the small community or the 20 families that lost their homes to a blaze that, fueled by strong winds, seemed to cut through the community like a laser beam.
“The relief efforts are on-going,” said the Reverend Dr. Karen Moore of the Big Pine Methodist Church on June 6. Moore was accepting donations from the Bishop Youth Football League and Bishop Waste Disposal.
The BYFL raised money by selling T-shirts emblazoned with the encouraging motto “Still Standing” and a picture of the giant tree – a town landmark – at the corner of U.S. 395 and State Route 168 east.
James Pettet, president of the BYFL, said the idea was inspired by a player and his family who had lost their home in the fire.
“What can we do for him? We got the idea and just ran with it,” Pettet explained.
He said the shirts sold like hotcakes and were still being printed up until the day of the April 16 Spaghetti Dinner. More on the pasta later.
Pettet and crew sold more than 300 shirts at $10 apiece with only a minimal amount going towards the cost of printing and initial purchase by BYFL.
He said the shirts are worn proudly, a badge for all to see that says, “Hey, I did my part.”
Bishop Waste Disposal did its part by donating trash bins, port-a-potties and portable sinks and water during extensive clean-up efforts, as well as matching $5,000 in donations.
Still others did their part and walked away with a full belly. The spaghetti dinner served more than 700 residents and visitors, according to Kimberley McCormick, who organized the event along with Tina Bowlan and Kelly Piper.
Again, with nearly all the materials donated, and all volunteer labor, the event served more than 2,500 meatballs – and raised $14,762.80.
McCormick said Vons donated plenty of food and the Big Pine Paiute Tribe donated what wasn’t used for the spaghetti dinner fundraiser it held earlier for members of the Indian Camp that were affected.
She said she had never organized such a large event before, but she had help from professional cook Mark Jenkins.
“It was overwhelming,” McCormick said. She said the dinner was scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. but with such a huge, eager crowd circling the building she opened the doors at 4:45 and the crowds came in, non-stop, until 7:45 p.m.
The destruction of the fire created quite an overwhelming feeling in McCormick to give back to help her fellow community members, even though she said she doesn’t really know anyone, personally, that had been affected.
“I haven’t been affected and touched in this way in a long time,” McCormick said. “I thought, ‘Let’s help out.’”
She said her goal was to raise $20,000.
McCormick said the fundraiser was exhausting, nerve-wracking, “And I’d do it all over again if I have to.”
Rick Fields of the Big Pine Civic Club said every affected family has received at least $5,000 apiece and many donations of food and clothing.
The Big Pine Methodist Church has played a pivotal role as an aid station, donation pick-up and drop-off location and provider of much needed moral support.