Champions of Recovery
Nine months ago, our community suffered unimaginable pain and devastation. Nine months ago, our community redefined strength. Love hung heavier than the smoke throughout those fateful October days, and nine months later, that love has only grown stronger.
Rebuild Wine Country was created to not only rebuild homes but to build and solidify bonds between every member of our community. The only way through is together, and we’re excited to introduce a few of the people who have made our community’s passage through the past nine months a little easier. These are three of the champions of recovery efforts. All three have vast experience advocating for our community, allowing each to take a holistic approach to the journey ahead.
Tim Leach is an investment management industry veteran dedicated to giving back. Leach serves as a board member and Chair of Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County's Build & Rebuild Committee. After October's devastating fires, he hosted bi-weekly meetings to plan steps toward recovery and now is the lead organizer of the Sonoma Wildfire Cottage Program and an integral part of the rebuilding efforts. Leach also worked very closely with RWC Co-founder, Chris Strieter, shortly after the firestorm began to advise and execute rebuilding efforts while simultaneously addressing the pre-existing housing shortage in Sonoma County.
“Before the fires, there was already a dramatic shortage of affordable housing in Sonoma County, as many as 5,000 affordable housing units,” said Leach. “So now, in addition to that traditional strategy, we’re trying to see where and how we can help fire-victim families who find themselves not able to rebuild because of some financial circumstance.”
A native of Sonoma County, Kerry Fugett has dedicated her life to serving the community. Whether it is through her current job at Daily Acts, where she serves as the Leadership Institute Program Manager empowering and connecting leaders to co-create a healthy, just, and resilient future, or as her previous role as Executive Director of Sonoma County Conservation Action, empowering and connecting others is second nature to Kerry. So immediately after the fires broke out, Kerry sprang into action and did just that. She co-managed Sonoma County Recovers, a collaborative virtual space that managed the influx of donations and volunteers offering services and goods to fire victims, as well as verifying and widely circulating rapidly changing information during the October fires.
Fugett’s team, a group of 12 complete strangers prior to the fires, came together to find a solution based on Sonoma County’s needs. The team quickly set up a governance system, recruited partner organizations and volunteers, and hosted a kickoff event with over 300 people by the fourth day of the fires. Because of her team’s efforts, the tool garnered nearly 3,000 volunteers, and received over 1,400 donations. Kerry's community involvement doesn't stop there; she also sits on the Sonoma County Climate Action Advisory Committee and the Rebuild North Bay Foundation Environment & Sustainability Advisory Board. As for the future, Kerry is optimistic; “Our community has the strength to recover and I will continue to dedicate myself to helping foster neighborhood connections, relationships, and the diverse leadership network needed to increase our resilience moving forward.”
Jennifer Gray Thompson
During October’s wildfires, Jennifer Gray Thompson was working for Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, who lost her home. After seeing the gnarled remains of homes and businesses along Highway 12 and weeping the entire way, Thompson remembers looking up behind Atwood Ranch and thinking, “I want to help rebuild this place. That is what I want my life to be about from here on out.” And help she has. She is now the executive director of Rebuild North Bay Foundation working every day to solve pre-existing issues along with restoring our region post-fires.
Thompson’s team at Rebuild North Bay Foundation is committed to not only a model of rebuilding success, it’s working to enable other communities to address challenges with greater success. As for where the foundation is headed in the future? She describes it in terms of three buckets: “advocacy, coordination and economic and workforce development,” and will work in collaboration with several groups to mutually support each of these three vital elements for years to come.
We're all in this together
We’re so inspired by Tim Leach and Jennifer Gray Thompson and their dedication to our community day in, day out. Want to join us on the journey to rebuilding this beautiful place we call home? We can always use your help.
Don’t have time? Don’t stress. Donate.