The city of Lincoln, California, is almost an hour and a half’s drive from Paradise, where the devastating Camp Fire has destroyed thousands of homes.
People in the two communities don’t really know each other.
And yet Lincoln’s residents are giving up their Thanksgiving plans to help prepare hundreds of meals for Paradise families who were displaced by the fire.
The effort is being led by Kris Wyatt, a Lincoln resident who was moved by the plight of her neighbors to the north.
“We felt very lost, asking, ‘How can we help?'” Wyatt said.
She began by asking community leaders and friends on social media about their Thanksgiving plans and whether they’d be willing to host fire evacuees. But Wyatt soon got a lot more help than she had imagined.
Turkeys, pies and beer
City officials offered one of the community’s largest buildings, the McBean Pavilion, for the event. The city’s fire department donated more than 100 turkeys. Local wineries offered wine, and breweries offered beer.
A local casino is offering 100 apple pies and a community bakery is offering 100 pumpkin pies.
“I’m overwhelmed by it,” Wyatt said. “Everyone is offering volunteering, doing table decorations and making signs.”
Wyatt said she’s heard from more than 100 volunteers who want to help set up, serve, clean up and create activities for the kids. She said they’re expecting more than 100 families from Paradise.
“One of our community members went to our local Holiday Inn and there were 30 families staying there,” she said. “When she went to Rocklin and Roseville, the next two closest cities, she visited a hotel with 128 rooms, 102 of which were taken by evacuees.”
It’s the least Lincoln residents can do, she said. Wyatt hopes the holiday will be a welcome break for families who have been dealing with the loss of their homes and belongings.
“It hits close to home because Paradise is not that far away and our community is family. It hits all of us,” she said. “We just want to bring a little bit of family to them on Thanksgiving Day.”
Another community is preparing to host thousands
Meanwhile, in Chico, California, closer to the fire, there are even more ambitious plans cooking to feed evacuees on Thursday.
The World Central Kitchen, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico State and several school groups are hosting “Thanksgiving Together,” a communal meal they hope will “bring together and bless the community through the unifying and healing power of food.”
The event page has gathered more than 800 volunteers who will work Wednesday and Thursday to set up, serve food and assist with cleanup.
Food for the event will be provided by World Central Kitchen and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
The World Central Kitchen was founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, who is no stranger to tragedy. His group visited North Carolina after Hurricane Florence and delivered more than 140,000 meals to shelters. They also served more than 3.6 million meals in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico is preparing to serve close to 2,000 people. They’re loaded with 1,500 pounds of turkey, 1,200 pounds of pulled pork, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy.
“Our owner realized that if we cooked the potatoes in our brew kettle (where we make beer), we could do about 1,000 pounds of mashed potatoes at a time,” said Robin Gregory, a spokeswoman for the brewery. “So we are indeed cooking mashed potatoes in the brew kettle.”