On October 8, 2017, deadly wildfires sparked overnight and raged across Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties in California.
Here in Oakland, where Clorox is headquartered, we woke to the smell of fire. For weeks, while the fires burned uncontained, our skies were hazy with ash and smoke, a grim reminder of the devastation 50 miles to our north.
(As this blog goes live, smoke again fills our skies, this time from wildfires in nearby Napa and Yolo counties.)
The city of Santa Rosa was particularly affected, with more than 2,900 homes — 5 percent of the city’s housing supply — lost to the Tubbs Fire. Some of those homes belonged to Clorox people, and many other Clorox employees had friends and family impacted by the fires.
Because we were so close, the Clorox Specialty team, representing the Kingsford, Glad, Brita, Hidden Valley and Fresh Step brands, felt compelled to find a way to help our impacted coworkers and community.
And so we adopted a 4th grade class in Santa Rosa.
A community impacted by fire
John B. Riebli Elementary School is located on Mark West Springs Road, squarely in the path of the Tubbs Fire. The school was spared, but the neighborhoods surrounding it were destroyed: 25 percent of the students and many teachers lost homes. The school itself remained closed until January 2018 because it wasn’t yet safe for kids to return to its classrooms.
This was especially devastating for the Riebli students since routines are especially important to young children during times of stress and difficulty.
We thought if we could bring a little joy to these children, we might be able to help create some positive memories in the midst of their tremendous loss.
Finding cause for celebration
We started with a holiday party.
Clorox employees volunteered at the students’ temporary school to bring some holiday joy to the class. We played games, decorated cookies, made snow flakes and shared gift bags with a hand-written note to each student.
In January 2018, when students returned to Riebli, we hosted a back-to-school party to celebrate the return from break and also the return to their own school. The students were so happy to be back, and we were honored to join their celebration with more fun and games.
This spring, when A Wrinkle in Time dominated the children’s box office, we hosted a 4th Grade field trip to the movies.
Our final event for our Riebli class was a Science Day hosted by our Specialty R&D team. Clorox employees led interactive science experiments, many using Clorox products.
Leaving a lasting impact
These events were all fun distractions for the kids, but we also wanted to leave them with something lasting.
We learned that a bench area at their temporary school had become a popular gathering spot for Riebli children. So Clorox Specialty team members spent a day in Santa Rosa building picnic tables and benches for Riebli students to enjoy.
Now, when the kids are at recess they can see the new tables and a fresh start rather than focus on the still-charred surrounds and remembering the fires and their loss.
These are all small steps, but hopefully ones that helped these kids through a tough year.