It began with repeated pounding on my front door at 2:30am on October 9th, 2017. My neighbors were moving through my small Santa Rosa community to alert us that wildfires were raging in the surrounding hills and that we should be prepared to evacuate. The first wave of neighbors left, while my husband and I began to gather our emergency bag. We moved through our home in the dark – removing paintings, photos and other family mementos, waking our 14-year old daughter who gathered her own keepsakes. The mandatory evacuation alert came a few hours later when law enforcement moved through our streets with bullhorns and sirens. We were fortunate to have time to prepare; many only had seconds to flee. We are also incredibly fortunate in that we had a home and an intact neighborhood to return to.

The statistics from the North Bay Fires are staggering. At least 43 people killed. Nearly 111,000 acres burned across four counties. My hometown of Santa Rosa lost more than 2,900 homes, 86 commercial properties and a significant portion of local and state parkland. 11% of students at my daughter’s high school lost their homes while 930 students plus more than 50 faculty and staff at Santa Rosa Junior College — where my husband teaches economics —were directly affected. The entire community and county were touched in direct and indirect ways: teachers, doctors, first responders, government officials, custodians, hotel workers, farmers, prominent community members who have called Santa Rosa home for decades, and recently arrived immigrants.

I have been reminded of the value of family and community over the past couple of weeks and have found strength from my community. I have also been applying lessons from my experience with organizing disaster relief efforts with The Hitachi Foundation and from my own experience here at Investors’ Circle. In working through my family’s decision on where to support fire relief, I was able to apply the principles outlined in this timely article:

  1. Think beyond immediate needs
  2.  Support causes you already know and care about
  3. Plan ahead

This allowed my family to make initial contributions in a more deliberate and thoughtful manner that also aligned with our values. At IC, we recognize the importance of joining forces for the greater good, of being on the front lines willing to take a chance, and of the need for long-term support. These broader lessons will be applicable over the coming days, weeks, months and years’ ahead as the affected North Bay communities move forward with the difficult task of rebuilding. It will take all facets to do this work, including supporting entrepreneurs who are critical players in the fabric of our society. Never has this been truer in the North Bay than now.

Which entrepreneurs are you supporting who are doing this hard, necessary work? Who is using business to tackle pressing needs in society? Share in the comments below.

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