Last October, wildfires erupted in northern California, spreading rapidly and quickly overwhelming local fire-fighting and emergency response resources. At least 21 separate burns destroyed more than 245,000 acres, over 380 square miles. Over 90,000 residents were evacuated, 8900 structures were destroyed, and at least 44 people lost their lives in fast moving firestorms. One of the hardest areas was Sonoma county where more than 5000 homes were destroyed and at least 23 people lost their lives.
St Dorothy’s Rest, the Camp and Conference Center in the diocese of California, found itself in the center of this historic and tragic disaster. The Camp itself was not damaged in the fires, but because of its location and facilities and the dedication of its staff, the camp became home for AmeriCorps, CaliforniaVolunteers and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) members who were assisting in the disaster response and recovery.
Last month, the camp’s director Katie Evenbeck received the Presidential Service Award for St Dorothy’s response and support of those volunteers.
On January 11, 2018 there was a ceremony to honor Katie Evenbeck, the executive director of St. Dorothy’s Rest for her response to the community during the fires in October in Sonoma County by immediately welcoming and hosting disaster relief staff. Carl Higbie, Chief of External Affairs Director for the Corporation for National and Community Service (NCCC) awarded Evenbeck with the Presidential Service Award. The Presidential Service Award is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the President of the United States. The President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) is a national volunteer awards program, encouraging citizens to live a life of service, offering presidential gratitude and national recognition. PVSA recognizes, celebrates and inspires volunteerism, service and citizenship in the community.
“This award really recognizes someone doing something great. And I’ve never seen one approved faster,” Higbie said. “I saw what St. Dorothy’s was doing. They were putting up and feeding close to one hundred NCCC members at times who were working on the fires, sometimes driving one to two hours to get back here covered in soot and were being fed and put up by Katie. And then they got up the next morning to go back and do this seven days a week. It was really something,” he said. The second I saw (the work at St. Dorothy’s) I said, ‘Wow, this is truly something special,’ and this is what makes America great, this type of attitude — ‘what can I do to help my community and those around me’?’’”