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Donations pour in to help wildfire evacuees

With the economy crashing during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, People’s Bank of Commerce employees worked long hours to help funnel federal aid to local businesses and keep paychecks flowing to workers.

Their round-the-clock marathon work sessions helped bring more than $93.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program money to Southern Oregon.

Now those workers are helping again. The bank’s 100 employees are donating $200,000 they earned in bonuses to aid fire relief efforts in Southern Oregon.

The locally owned and managed bank is donating $1 million itself, bringing the total contribution to $1.2 million.

“The devastating effects of the fires are not over yet, and we continue to be stunned by the damage — leaving many of our friends, family, neighbors and community members without homes, clothes, and financial resources,” said People’s Bank Chief Executive Officer Ken Trautman.

Some of the money will be dispersed by the People’s Bank Foundation for temporary housing needs.

“Short-term, our objective is to provide people safe and comfortable housing until our community is able to rebuild,” Trautman said.

People’s Bank is working with community partners on a long-term plan to use the rest of the money to aid long-term rebuilding efforts, bank managers said.

Meanwhile, three local car dealership owners combined to contribute $75,000 to the United Way of Jackson County Fire Fund after the Almeda fire devastated parts of Talent and Phoenix.

The chain of contributions started when TC Chevy Owner Derek DeBoer gave $25,000, continued when Airport Chevrolet Owner Steve Miller added another $25,000 and grew another $25,000 with a donation by Southern Oregon Subaru Owner Randy Nidalmia.

United Way Executive Director Dee Anne Everson said the generosity of the gifts made her “cry happy tears. I’m so grateful.”

The United Way Fire Fund will help with mid to long-term recovery and rebuilding, she said.

“We still don’t fully understand the devastation and losses we have experienced. The United Way of Jackson County will assist in the rebuilding and moving forward from this catastrophic event,” Everson said.

For information and to donate, visit unitedwayofjacksoncounty.org.

Like the People’s Bank employees, the small staff at the United Way already had been working long hours to help people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 2,800 structures were destroyed by the Almeda fire, including homes and businesses.

Property losses could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and not everyone had insurance or enough insurance to cover the damage.

Fundraising efforts continue across the Rogue Valley to aid in the recovery. Others include:

— The Phoenix-Talent School District has launched the Phoenix Talent Fire Relief Fund to help the estimated 40 percent of students’ families who lost their homes in the Almeda fire. Checks and gift cards can be sent to Fire Relief Fund, P.O. Box 937, Medford, OR 97501, or dropped off at Orchard Hill Elementary, 1011 La Loma, Medford. Checks should be made out to Jackson County School District No. 4.

— Wash N’ Go, located at 501 Matt Loop in Medford will donate all proceeds from car washes from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25 to the Phoenix Talent Fire Relief Fund. With many vehicles coated in fire ash, the fundraiser is a good opportunity to clean off your car. A donation bucket will be set out if people want to donate more money, or if they don’t need a car wash.

— Also on Friday, Sept. 25, The Human Bean coffee stands in Jackson County will donate 100 percent of food and beverage sales to help ACCESS, a local social services agency helping those impacted by local fires. The stands will also accept cash donations.

— ACCESS is helping to provide emergency food, shelter, toiletries, sleeping bags and other essentials. Visit accesshelps.org to ask for help or make a donation.

— The Unete center has created a farmworker and immigrant family relief fund. The fund will distribute money directly to families for basics like food, gas and other essentials they need due to impacts from fire in Jackson County. For information and to donate, see uneteoregon.org.

— The Rogue Valley Relief Fund will aid people impacted by local fires. In the short term, the fund will be used directly to meet the needs of those displaced by the fires, including tents, meals, gas and other supplies. The long term goal is to help people who’ve lost their homes to rebuild their lives, prioritizing those with the least access to aid. For information and to donate, see mrgfoundation.org/rogue-valley-relief-fund1/.

— Amid a variety of other fundraisers, community members have started more than 400 online GoFundMe fundraisers — some for individuals and specific families, and others for widespread needs.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Utility worker Jake Orton examines a building destroyed by the Almeda Fire at the Parkview Townhomes in Talent, Ore., on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)