Community, firefighters, and law enforcement give holiday dinners to Almeda Fire survivors

PHOENIX, Ore. — Around 400 families directly affected by the Almeda Fire were provided with holiday dinners today, thanks to a group of local organizations.

Cars lined up in the parking lot of Phoenix High School Wednesday afternoon, filled with excited families ready to pick up a holiday dinner.

“Our hearts during the holiday season just feel heavy for a lot of the families going through a pretty tragic time in their life,” said one of the organizers of the event, Trey Berky with Country Financial.

The drive-through event was set up by community sponsors Country Financial, John L. Scott, and Guild Insurance.

“There’s a lot of unrest, and a lot of these families haven’t settled in the last year, on top of COVID and I figured they probably needed a little cheer during the holiday months,” Berky said.

The community sponsors recruited some helpers for handing out turkeys, hams, canned foods, bread, and more.

“We reached out to the chiefs from Fire District 3, 5, Medford, and the Sheriff’s Office – who gave an emphatic yes to helping put all this together,” he said.

Berky says sponsors helped raise $30,000 in a month in order to provide families in need with the dinners.

The impact of their kindness isn’t lost on Almeda Fire survivors.

“Well, it shows that community still cares and they’re still out there for people that are struggling post-fire. Realistically, housing is a little far and few between right now so for some of us it’s difficult to get back out there,” said fire survivor, Chandler Shade.

Avery Stephens and Shade say finding housing is still a difficulty for them and their child. They’re staying in housing provided by FEMA out in Central Point.

“Having this and the food box from Rogue Eats each week is important to me because at the very least it means we have milk and eggs, cheese – just basic things to keep us from going under as we’re trying to come back from the fire,” said Stephens.

For first responders, the opportunity to give back to the families they fought to protect during the tragic fire feels like a full-circle moment.

“For the firefighters and law enforcement personnel, being able to come in and support this wonderful work and partnership and give back to the community… because the community also supported all of us during the fight and post-fight, this an opportunity for us to give back, as well,” said Medford Fire Department Operations Chief, Brian Bumgartner.

Meal vouchers were distributed to the families with scheduled hourly times ahead of the event to avoid overcrowding.

It ended at 6 p.m.

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