California Conservation Corps Tahoe members support Maui fire victims

Submitted to the Tribune

Californians are no stranger to the devastation wildfire brings. When the town of Lahaina in Hawaii was ravaged by flames on August 8—damaging 2,200 buildings, displacing 11,000 residents, and leaving at least 115 people dead—it hit home for many of the young adults in the California Conservation Corps.

“I have family that lives in Hawaii,” said CCC Tahoe Corpsmember Riley Coelho. “My great grandma was born on Oahu and a lot of my dad’s cousins still live there. So, when I heard about the fires it was a big shock. To be able to go over here and help is very personal for me.”

Coelho is among 16 Corpsmembers who left California for Maui two weeks ago. Through the rest of this month they will support wildfire recovery as part of a FEMA and AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team.

The Corpsmembers are assisting with donation management, sorting, inventorying, and distributing critical supplies – such as canned goods, toiletries, and pet food – to survivors at a makeshift warehouse facility.

CCC Corpsmembers and staff work in conjunction with AmeriCorps partners sorting donations on Maui.

“It’s definitely an honor to help on this emergency and show what the California Conservation Corps is about: disciplined, positive, and always ready for the next task,” said CCC Placer Corpsmember Cynthia Mendoza. “We’re also taught to be respectful of survivors, sometimes they just need someone to listen.”

After seeing the impacts of tornadoes, flooding, and other deadly events in their own communities, several of the Corpsmembers bring their own lived experience and empathy for the Maui survivors.

“To see my small town come together to support one another during tragic times, gave me hope,” said Tahoe Corpsmember Saul Garcia. “I think it’s important for future generations to carry that on and stand hand-in-hand with your neighbor.”

Corpsmembers are working 10 to 12-hour shifts, six days a week. The additional capacity provided by the CCC, as part of the AmeriCorps mission, will help the community meet critical short-term needs.On their days off, the crew hopes to rest and learn about Hawaiian culture. For many, this will be their first time leaving the continental United States.

“Whether it’s internal or physical, I hope to take what I can from this experience and apply it to my everyday life,” said Saul.

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