Funds to Assist Communities Devastated by Drought

Funds to Assist Communities Devastated by Drought

Posted on November 10, 2015

The California Drought Relief Fund, which was launched on August 26, 2015,  announced its first grants to help families and communities impacted by the state’s unprecedented drought and dangerous wildfires. The funds, totalling more than $140,000, are being distributed to three relief organizations:  Self-Help Enterprises (SHE), the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW) and the California Fire Foundation (CFF). SHE and EJCW will help dozens of  families whose wells have run dry in the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys.  The CFF supports firefighters and operates the SAVE program, which helps first responders distribute immediate cash relief to wildfire victims.

The California Drought Relief Fund was launched with an initial donation of $100,000 from Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor. Hundreds of Californians also made small contributions online, many of them members of the California-based Courage Campaign and climate change advocacy organization, who asked their members to donate. The California Wellness Foundation also made a grant to support the fund, as did the utility Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E).

Through higher temperatures and decreased precipitation, climate change has exacerbated California’s record drought and wildfires. Ninety-five percent of the state is in severe, extreme or exceptional drought.  From January through October 2015, CalFire responded to fires that burned  approximately 307,000 acres, more than three times the average during the past five years.

Maria Marquez, a 50-year-old resident of the Highland Acres community in Tulare County, is one of the people receiving support via Self-Help Enterprises. Maria lives with her two daughters and grandchildren. Their well went dry in June 2014 and they have lived without running water since then. A new well would cost more than $30,000 – more than her annual earnings from the food truck where she is employed. Self-Help Enterprises is providing Maria with a pressurized water tank, which provides water for sanitation, hygiene and cleaning. “I’m very happy that there is a funding source that can help homeowners and rental properties, because they both need water,” Maria said.

In this June 30, 2015 photo, Maria Marquez, left, holds her granddaughter, Serenity Palomera, 3, after a bath at their home in the community of Highland Acres, on the outskirts of Tulare, Calif. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

 Tom Collishaw, CEO of Self-Help Enterprises: “People in the communities we serve are literally running out of water, and many, including renters, are not eligible for state aid. The crisis is immediate and these families are taking drastic measures to meet their basic water needs for cooking, cleaning and keeping their home healthy and safe. We’re grateful for the California Drought Relief Fund’s help in filling this gap.”

The California Drought Relief Fund will accept contributions through the end of 2015. Visit to learn more and make a contribution.

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