A Northern California couple has found their own way to help the thousands of residents displaced by the Camp Fire by creating an initiative that matches families in need with those willing and able to help.
Rocklin County residents Eric and Heather Loftholm got the idea to create the Facebook group "Paradise Fire Adopt a Family" after coming across — and helping — a woman who shared the challenges she and her family were facing on Facebook, ABC Sacramento affiliate KXTV reported.
The goal of the page was to create a way for evacuees and volunteers to connect directly, according to the local station.
"What we're doing is we're matching people who want to help with families that have been affected by the fires," Eric Loftholm said in a video posted to the group page on Sunday urging the Facebook community to "consider adopting a family."
One of the most difficult tasks for the couple is talking to victims from Rocklin County, which is about a 90-minute drive from Butte County, the community impacted the most by Camp Fire, Heather Loftholm said in the video.
On Sunday, Heather Loftholm met fire victims in person in one of the tent camps set up for evacuees near a Walmart parking lot in Chico. She visited to gather their information, help them fill out a survey detailing what they'll need and to help match them with sponsoring families, she said.
"A lot of people lost any technology they had in the fire with their homes," she said, explaining why many don't have access to the Facebook group she helped create.
Heather Loftholm was able to connect one woman who she donated money to with a family, she said. Another woman had been sleeping in her car with her three cats and an iguana — pets she was able to rescue from her Paradise home.
The Facebook group had ballooned to nearly 11,000 members as of Tuesday, shedding light on the number of residents in dire need of basic essentials after entire communities were incinerated by the fast-moving wildfire.
The Camp Fire in Northern California has destroyed more than 16,000 structures, with more than 12,000 of them residences, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Any money donated through the Loftholm's initiative will go directly to the adopted family, Eric Loftholm said, adding that, "This isn't about money. Although you might end up contributing some money, this is about loving your neighbor. It's really that simple."
There are other ways to help besides donating funds, Heather Loftholm said. One massage therapist decided to offer free massages to stressed evacuees, she said. Another woman, who is a talented baker, is driving to the shelters with pies, cakes, cookies and brownies in tow, Eric Loftholm said.
Another woman told Heather Loftholm that she did not have the ability to donate money, but asked to be matched with a family who has young children around the same age as hers because she has "really good clothes" that her kids have outgrown.
"Everybody can do something," Heather Loftholm said.
Some sponsors have opened up their homes to displaced residents, Eric Loftholm told KXTV. The couple is continuing to help by making donations, finding companies to sponsor victims as well as the simple act of making phone calls on people's behalf, Eric Loftholm said.
The couple has adopted a family themselves, Eric Loftholm said.
"We felt the tug to reach out and make a difference," he said. "We’re doing one thing at a time."