September 21, 2020

Emergency wildfire relief response

Photo credit: Fred Joe Photo.

The wildfires that continue to grip Oregon, burning nearly 1 million acres, have taken lives, devastated communities and compounded the stresses of multiple, ongoing disasters.

Meyer Memorial Trust mourns with Oregonians grieving the loss of life, homes and businesses, those evacuated and those struggling to breathe. We grieve the destruction of forests, wildlife and natural habitats. We appreciate the strong response by Oregonians and people from across the country that have stepped up already to provide immediate relief.

To support those most impacted by the wildfires, Meyer’s board of trustees last week approved $250,000 in new grants for communities wrestling with immediate needs, focusing on relief funds that reach the most impacted communities and people within those communities that have the least access to aid. The emergency wildfire relief fund grants are directed at bridging investment in six local United Way organizations working directly on relief, as well as relief efforts targeting priority populations hit hard by the fires and their aftermath. These grants include:

  • $60,000 to MRG Foundation for the Since Time Immemorial Fund, an effort to rapidly deploy resources to Tribal communities across the region when opportunity or need arises
  • $25,000 to CAUSA or Oregon for immediate relief support for Latinx and immigrant communities facing hardship from wildfires
  • $25,000 to MRG Foundation for the Rogue Valley Relief Fund, a crucial relief effort supporting people most impacted by wildfires in the Rogue Valley region
  • $25,000 to the United Way of Columbia-Willamette for relief support for communities facing hardship from wildfires in Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah counties
  • $25,000 to Willamette Valley Law Project for PCUN's Farmworker Emergency Fund, which provides relief support for farmworkers facing hardship from wildfires
  • $15,000 to Greater Douglas United Way for relief support for Douglas County communities facing hardship from wildfires
  • $15,000 to United Way of Southwestern Oregon for relief support for communities facing hardship from wildfires in Coos and Curry counties
  • $15,000 to United Way of Jackson County for relief support for Jackson County communities facing hardship from wildfires
  • $15,000 to United Way of Lane County for relief support for Lane County communities facing hardship from wildfires
  • $15,000 to United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley for relief support for communities facing hardship from wildfires in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties
  • $15,000 to the Wildfire Relief Fund of the United Way of Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties

Earlier last week, Meyer joined with Oregon Community Foundation and the Ford Family Foundation to create the 2020 Community Rebuilding Fund, a commitment to gather resources and plan for what comes next after the extraordinary devastation brought by wildfires across a state already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and consequences of racial injustice.

Meyer is grateful to be a partner in immediate and long-term recovery efforts to restore economic vitality and livability to communities, by focusing on those who face the biggest barriers to recovery. At Meyer, we believe that a core part of our mission for a flourishing and equitable Oregon calls us to join with other Oregonians in moments of severe crisis to support the resiliency of communities facing hardships. And we understand that underlying injustices caused by systemic racism and economic inequality intersect in a moment crisis, exacerbating historic disparities with new risk, trauma and harm.

For Meyer, the wildfires are a reminder that equity be a guiding star as the state looks to make sure vulnerable populations aren’t left behind when it comes to the immediate response, planning, rebuilding and recovery, specifically Black, Indigenous and people of color, immigrants and refugees, seniors and low-income Oregonians, groups that are more likely to be renters or unhoused.

We see an opportunity to design a recovery for Oregon that centers addressing structural racism and the need to confront climate change. The potential for a recovery that builds a regenerative and just economy that scales up many of the innovative practices and policies already happening in rural and urban communities across the state. An opportunity to link this recovery with the work Meyer is already supporting in communities across the state to decarbonize our economy and create high-wage jobs and job training to build clean energy infrastructure and restore our ecosystems. A clarion call to invest in work to help communities adapt and address root causes of the destructive and frequent wildfires that we are now experiencing as a result of climate change.

While these more intense and frequent wildfires are a symptom of the climate crisis, they are also the result of decades of fire suppression and forest management that have disrupted the natural fire regime of our forests by removing large trees. That is why Meyer supports efforts to change how Oregon manages and stewards forests and other wildlands, including Indigenous fire management, to improve forest structure, restore natural systems and support a fire regime that can be managed more predictably. Predictability would help us better address smoke and economic impacts on communities.

Finally, these wildfires have created and worsened a public health emergency in the middle of a global public health emergency. Shifting smoke and air quality indicators have solidified for Oregonians the connection between pollution, health and housing; and far too many of our neighbors experience terrible air quality in their homes or lack shelter even without wildfires.

At Meyer, we believe that a core part of our mission for a flourishing and equitable Oregon calls us to join with other Oregonians in moments of severe crisis to support the resiliency of communities facing hardships. And we understand that underlying injustices caused by systemic racism and economic inequality intersect in this moment of crisis, exacerbating historic disparities with new risk, trauma and harm.

— Jill