Dear Community Friends,
Please read the following statement from the Red Cross Central California Region regarding the Erskine Fire relief efforts and how your generous donations are being handled by Goodwill:
The current focus of the Red Cross is on the immediate needs of the residents which include, shelter, food and comfort. It takes time and money to store, sort and distribute donated items and this time the Red Cross is working with community partners to help us in this effort. The Red Cross isn't equipped to handle a large influx of donations such as household items, clothing or food that may or may not be useful to affected residents.
If you'd still like to donate goods, they are being accepted at the Elks Lodge in Wofford Heights - the Salvation Army is assisting with sorting, cleaning and distributing items.
There is an overflow of donations that have been dropped off at other locations and at our shelters in the Kern River Valley. Goodwill has offered to sort and clean those donations. This has to be done in Bakersfield, but then the donations will come back to the community. We are actively partnering with the Goodwill to set up a distribution site in Kern River Valley for residents to access these donations free of charge.
We appreciate the overwhelming support of Kern County, and our volunteers are doing everything they possibly can to support the affected families and to work with community partners to keep donated goods accessible for those who need them.
BACKGROUND ON GOODWILL'S ROLE IN DISASTER RESPONSE
Goodwill's mission is to provide work opportunities and skills development for people with barriers to employment. Goodwill is proud to be a part of the not-for-profit social service network providing needed services in our community helping people obtain and maintain employment. Goodwill is not a disaster relief agency.
For some background on the disaster response and Goodwill's role it is important to understand that often when a disaster occurs, it is followed by a second disaster of too many donated goods sent to an area with no capacity to sort, store and distribute. Also, the donations often do not match the exact need. To help avoid that second disaster, the County of Kern, the Red Cross, Goodwill and a number of other agencies developed agreements several years ago that would allow for a more orderly way for donors to make donations and emergency responders to meet the needs more effectively and efficiently. Goodwill's role, as requested by the County and the Red Cross, is to receive and process donations and to respond by providing specific items needed. There are basically four ways Goodwill provides support:
- Receive, process and store donations, then deliver to the designated sites any items needed or requested by the County, the Red Cross or other relief organizations in the area. These items are provided free of charge to the victims. (Goodwill has been delivering truckloads of processed clothing on hangers, shoes, and other items to the Elks Lodge which were the processed goods from an earlier pick up of some of their donations.)
- Issue vouchers to the Red Cross for distribution to victims as they determine necessary to address short-term and long-term needs. The vouchers have no expiration date and allow individuals to shop for free in any of Goodwill's stores up to the face value of the vouchers. On Friday, June 23rd, Goodwill issued $2,500 in vouchers for the Red Cross to distribute immediately and Goodwill has additional vouchers on standby to send once displaced individuals are out of the shelter, in temporary or permanent housing and have transportation.
- Provide supplies and equipment needed to move, store, and display clothing and household goods. Goodwill delivered pallets and boxes, a pallet jack, clothing racks, hangers, and tables.
- Provide other supplies as needed. For example, the County sent Goodwill a list of immediate needs (non-donated goods items) including diapers, paper towels, plastic cutlery, towels, washcloths, sleeping bags, new adult and child underwear, and many other things. Goodwill purchased two truckloads of new goods from Costco and they were delivered to the Elks Lodge. That purchase totaled just over $5,300, paid for by Goodwill.
Goodwill is in integral part of the Kern County community's efforts to get our fellow citizens the relief needed to ease their suffering as best we can. Unfortunately, there have been some inaccurate Facebook/social media rumors circulating over the last week about our role. Goodwill responded to a request over the first weekend of the disaster response effort to deploy two trucks to the area loaded with pallets and boxes to help the donation sites in Kernville better store and organize the significant overflow of donations they were receiving. On that initial trip, the folks running those sites asked Goodwill to bring back some of the donations to Bakersfield for processing, which we did. Goodwill brought them to its Stine Warehouse where they were processed (sorted and folded or hung on hangers) and returned to the area over the course of the week. Goodwill mobilized a team of employees pulled from our retail stores to work at the warehouse on the processing project. This was the area where the misinformation that people are seeing on social media probably originated as a few individuals did not understand our role and thought that Goodwill was simply taking the items.
Goodwill is doing everything it can to provide the support requested by the County, the Red Cross, and the organizations providing relief in the Kern River Valley area while still serving Goodwill's mission of employment and training.