Sunday’s Rise Up Sonoma event raised 550,000 for people who are suffering from the worst firestorm in California’s history, killing 24 people in Sonoma County, leaving thousands homeless, and the landscape scarred.
The challenges ahead for those affected already have organizers talking about planning an event for next year.
As celebrity chef Guy Fieri put it, “Our friends and family will need us for the next five years as they rebuild their homes and communities. I would love to bring back our winery and restaurant friends together again next year to Rise Up Sonoma.”
The event at the Jackson Theater of the Sonoma Country Day School in Santa Rosa drew 400-plus people, and it was filled with goodwill sipping and highbrow treats. But it also proved to be a rare crossroads for the victims and fire fighters, a chance meeting for people like Lisa Mattson and Lance MacDonald.
“I had no idea a guy would walk across the room and say ‘I was one of the people who saved your house,’” Mattson said.
The director of marketing & communications at Jordan Vineyard & Winery said MacDonald recognized her from her Facebook profile picture, and he proceeded to tell her exactly how her house was saved and her art was spared.
Mattson and her husband, Damon, were in Sitges, Spain when the fire began its rampage Oct. 8, and MacDonald was a volunteer working with a crew from Healdsburg. He detailed the triage of how 3929 Rincon Ridge in Fountaingrove was saved.
“I knew our garage was on fire, but I never knew the back of the house was on fire,” Mattson said.
The marketing expert plans to rebuild and has created a support group for people like her, as well as others who are already inhabiting their homes.
“They’re living in the rubble,” Mattson said. “How do we come together so we can be strong?”
The wildfires dominated the conversation throughout the evening, with everyone determined to pitch in. Restaurateur Sondra Bernstein of Sonoma’s Girl & the Fig said this was her fourth or fifth fundraiser.
“I’m grateful to be here and serve people,” she said. “Obviously there’s a lot of people in need of assistance.”
Bernstein had a tray of Cauliflower Stormato, and other dishes nearby included Quail Egg BLTs and Deviled Eggs with a dollop of Kim Chi at the base.
More than 50 chefs and restaurants participated, as well as 40-plus vintners and breweries. Each participating vintner donated a 3-liter bottling for the private auction.
Sonoma County Vintners and winemakers pouring their wares included John Holdredge of his namesake winery, Mike Officer of Carlisle, Mike Sullivan of Benovia, and Chris Strieter of Senses Wines.
“The spirit of Sonoma County is here,” Holdredge said. “We all want to help those who are struggling.”
The charities benefiting from the event include:
Care Relief Fund, calrestfoundation.org/fires.html
Redwood Credit Union Fund, redwoodcu.org/northbayfirerelief
UnDocuFund Fire Relief for Sonoma County, http://undocufund.org
Homes for Sonoma, homesforsonoma.org
Rebuild Wine Country, rebuildwinecountry.org
Burners Without Borders, burnerswithoutborders.org/projects/oasis-village