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Stanford community contributes to California wildfire relief

Courtesy of Jensen Neff

In the wake of the most destructive wildfire in California’s history, Stanford students, faculty and organizations are mobilizing to contribute to national relief efforts. Before Camp Fire reached 100 percent containment after 17 days on Nov. 25, the wildfire killed at least 88 people, ravaged over 14,000 residences and scorched a 154,000 acre region of the state.

This year, the 2018 Cardinal at Work Cares Donation Drive — Stanford’s annual employee giving campaign — has expanded to benefit those affected by the recent wildfires, while other Stanford students and organizations are working to fundraise for wildfire relief.

The Donation Drive, now in its third year, ran from Oct. 30 to Nov. 30 with the goal of encouraging the spirit of service among Stanford employees. The drive aimed to collect new, travel-sized personal care items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors and soap to benefit those in need.

During the first week of December, Cardinal at Work Cares will host sorting parties where volunteers will assemble personal care packages and write words of encouragement in “kindness cards” included in each gift. These packages will be delivered to victims of the recent wildfires at the Oroville Hope Center and via a state agency, as well as to the Ronald McDonald House for families with ill loved ones at Stanford and CityTeam homeless shelters throughout the Bay Area.

This year, the drive’s organizers anticipate collecting enough donations to assemble 2,500 personal care packages for distribution.

According to Valerie Beeman, senior director of communications for Cardinal at Work, this year’s participation in the drive has been “awe-inspiring.” Beeman said that organizers encouraged employees to donate via an Amazon Wish List, which enabled greater participation through shopping online.

“Stanford faculty and staff are enthusiastic about giving back to their communities and to others in need, and we are glad that our Cardinal at Work Cares employee donation drive is one way to harness their caring nature,” Beeman said.

Meanwhile, at the Haas Center for Public Service, student organizers coordinated a bake sale, planning to donate all proceeds to the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund to support the victims of the wildfires. Students may purchase one brownie for $3 and two for $5 by Sunday at noon.

Emily Wong ’22, a Frosh Service Liaison, spearheaded the service project with the support of Haas Center program director Reza Rezvani.

“Stanford is in a unique place,” Wong said. “The fires are very visible to us because of the smoke, but at the same time we aren’t in danger of losing the campus. It’s important for us to recognize the other impacts of the fire and those who have lost homes, possessions, loved ones and health.”

In addition to the bake sale initiative, Haas Center staff compiled a list of ways members of the Stanford community can support victims of the wildfires. The list has been shared with Cardinal Service Connectors faculty and staff supporting public service across campus, as well as with student listservs.

Individual Stanford students have also taken initiative to contribute to relief efforts. When Jensen Neff ’20 received news in early November that the Woolsey fire in the Los Angeles and Ventura counties ravaged the neighborhood of close family friends, she felt compelled to act.

“Here in California, we can see the immediate effects and literally breathe the immediate effects of the fires,” said Neff, who is a Marin county resident.

Neff, who runs a small sticker business — madebyjens — on Etsy, decided to donate the proceeds from November’s sales of her hand-designed “California Poppy” sticker to the California Community Foundation for Northern and Southern California wildfire relief.

Neff said that purchasing stickers is a meaningful and simple way for college students — who often lack the means to donate in large quantities — to contribute to a cause. Neff sells each “California Poppy” sticker for $3.50.

This is not the first time Neff has used her business to aid those in need. Neff created the “California Poppy” design in October 2017 and donated all $2,500 of the sticker’s proceeds to support victims affected by the Northern California wildfires in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

Since Nov. 10 this year, Neff has raised and donated $550 in proceeds to the California Community Foundation. This time around, Neff said that she has received orders from customers nationwide, whereas last year most customers who purchased her stickers were California residents. Neff attributed this further-reaching impact to her the growth of her sticker business’ social media presence.

“I just think stickers are really powerful — they’re this really tiny thing, but they’re symbolic of how, collectively, we can all create something huge,” Neff said. “When I look around and see the ‘My heart is in California’ slogan on Stanford students’ laptops, I just feel really proud that we all did this together. It is really rewarding.”

 

Contact Alex Tsai at aotsai ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

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