Christensen said she got involved in the effort in the days before Thanksgiving, in part because her husband and his family live nearby in Chico. While the extended family was spared from the fire, Christensen's family began raising funds and planned to deliver supplies directly to fire victims in the area.
Prior to Thanksgiving, Christensen said she was able to raise $4,000 in funds and close to $1,000 worth of donated blankets, pillows, clothing, bedding and other necessities.
"Our truck was overflowing with donations," she said.
Huff staff donated everything from coats to gift cards, and the school's third-grade students wrote letters of support for the firefighters, which were delivered to fire department personnel in Butte County. Christensen said family members have also sought to help in any way that they can, including with temporary housing and laying down new electrical wiring to support FEMA operations.
While the Camp Fire was fully contained as of Nov. 25, Christensen said she has continued to keep the donations flowing on a Facebook fundraiser, which she regularly updates. The page can be found at tinyurl.com/huffhelp.
Text for mental health help
Santa Clara County residents struggling with mental health crises can now use a text message-based hotline to access help.
The Crisis Text Line system has existed throughout the country for about five years, but county officials officially signed onto the program on Monday.
The hotline has received 86 million text messages since 2013 and offers 4,500 crisis counselors, according to the county. Anyone in need of help can text "RENEW" to 741741.
"The ability to offer text-based support to people in need adds a new dimension to our services, and is an especially important tool to offer to young people in Santa Clara County," Toni Tullys, director of county's behavioral health department, said in a news release.
According to the county's open data portal, 1,474 people died of suicide between 2007 and 2016. In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control found Morgan Hill and Palo Alto to have the highest rates of suicide in the county for individuals between the ages of 10 and 24.
A large majority of users accessing the text hotline are younger than 25, and the county hopes the hotline will address suicides among teenagers and young adults in college.
The text system will supplement the county's existing confidential phone hotline at (855) 278-4204.
Supervisors approved the program with a $24,500 contract, according to behavioral health spokesman Maury Kendall.
Donations needed for homeless
Homeless services in the South Bay are in need of reinforcements and donations as stormy weather begins affecting the Bay Area.
Organizations gathering donations include advocates for temporary homeless encampments as well as traditional winter shelters.
Peter Miron-Conk, founder of the Hope Village encampment near Mineta San Jose International Airport, said there is an ongoing need for tents, tarps and sleeping bags throughout the year.
During the winter, individuals also need warm clothes and non-perishable food items. Donations for Hope Village can be dropped off at 318 N. First St., according to Miron-Conk.
Edie Brodsky, who organizes Sleeping Bags for the Homeless of Silicon Valley, said ponchos, socks and toiletries are necessary for the rainy season. Hand, body and foot warmers are available in bulk packs and are also very helpful, she said.
Brodsky is available to pick up donations and takes drop-offs at her home address and said there is no limit for accepted goods. Individuals interested in contributing can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traditional shelters, like HomeFirst in Milpitas, have lists of their "most-needed" goods available online. Volunteer coordinator Jaclyn Salinas said these items include underwear for women, blankets, sleeping bags, travel-sized hygiene supplies and towels.
The shelter also asks for professional clothes for interview-readiness, zip-top plastic bags, education supplies for kids and clothing in all sizes for men, women and children.
HomeFirst accepts monetary donations online and by mail. People interested in donating physical items can first contact the shelter at email@example.com
County first in state to have AEDs at every public school
Santa Clara County has become the first in the state to equip each of its public schools with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to combat sudden heart attacks among young people, the county reported last week.
The nonprofit Racing Hearts began installing the equipment as a pilot program in 2014, which has since grown to 810 AEDs spread among elementary, middle and high schools in the county. The organization has been active in adding AEDs throughout Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and the rest of the county.
County officials said fewer than 10 percent of local public schools had access to the equipment four years ago.
"It's a milestone moment for the people in our county," County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a news release. "We had a goal of equipping all schools and we did it."
The AED models are designed for easy usage to defibrillate a heart attack victim before an ambulance arrives.
More than 7,000 young people, mainly between the ages of 10 to 19, die each year from sudden heart attacks, according to county officials, who said heart attacks can strike people of any age or fitness level.
Victims survive about 5 to 8 percent of the time when receiving only CPR, but 80 percent survive through the use of AEDs, county officials said.
"I am so proud that Santa Clara County is the first county in the state to have this necessary life-saving equipment on each of its campuses," County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan said in a news release.
The equipment was funded through $1 million in matching funds from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors with local school districts, nonprofits, foundations and individuals, according to the county.
—Bay City News Service
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