"Don't expect to go through it yourself. People will want to help, ask for it. And then when you get through your disaster, pay it forward." -Margie Foster
SERIES: Role of the Community Leader
Discover how emergent leaders are made way before a disaster even strikes! This week, Jennifer and Margie Foster, one of Glen Ellen's emergent leaders teach how to step up for your community and be a vehicle for people to find their place after a disaster. Margie shares how her experience of a prior disaster helped her be an advocate for her community. She relates practical strategies, systems, and tools to promote community connection, get funding, and build resiliency. Everyone, even leaders themselves, goes through their own pain and loss. But when the spirit of community connection is at work, even the greatest of disasters will lose its power!
- 02:22: It Begins with You
- 07:54: The Devastating Power of Fire
- 13:39: Disaster Notification Systems and Must-Haves
- 20:45: Help Find People Find A Home
- 25:35: Promoting Community Connection
- 35:44: The Post Disaster
- 39:50: Ask for Help
02:24: "So much of the recovery, the rebuilding, and the reimagining begin with YOU." -Jennifer Thompson
03:34: "There are systems that have been done before that are not prescriptive, they are adaptive." -Jennifer Thompson
05:03: "You're not in it to be a hero. You're doing the heroics." -Jennifer Thompson
13:25: "Everyone should find what they're comfortable with. But we need to make connections and watch out for our neighbors and our community." -Margie Foster
20:58: "Normally what happens in a disaster is… the best of humanity meets the moment." -Jennifer Thompson
23:05: "People feel a little more comfortable not just putting it out to the universe, but wanting to know someone that could verify for them or vouch for them. It's about knowing a lot of people and being connected to your community." -Margie Foster
24:43: "A resilient community is a connected community." -Jennifer Thompson
39:06: "If you have an unprecedented event in your community, there isn't a sector that's going to get it right the first time out. So it's incredibly important that we share our lessons." -Jennifer Thompson
41:04: "Don't expect to go through it yourself. People will want to help, ask for it. And then when you get through your disaster, pay it forward." -Margie Foster
Margie Foster has always been an active citizen of Glen Ellen, CA. She also served as the treasurer of the Glen Ellen Association, which later brought the Glen Ellen Forum, to which she also served as a Board Member Emeritus. Margie loves to volunteer in her community and also worked as a bookkeeper where she honed skills that will later play a huge role during the wildfires.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Welcome to another episode of How To Disaster, a podcast to help you recover, rebuild and reimagine. In 2017 in the North Bay of San Francisco, North Bay, we experienced massive mega fire, and it was devastating. We lost over 6,000 units of housing overnight, one night in a four county region. And one of the areas that was most devastated is this small hamlet in Sonoma Valley where I live called Glen Ellen. In Glen Ellen, a large percentage of the homes were destroyed. And there it wasn't, it's not a very big place. Anyway, it's mostly famous because these were Jacqueline Dunn made her home, and where you may have heard of Jacqueline State Park. It's a heavily wooded area, and it was full of a lot of people who'd actually been there for even generations. And then it also had this parallel issue of many homes that were vacant, which in the past decade had been purchased as second home.
"So much of the recovery, the rebuilding, and the reimagining begin with YOU." -Jennifer Thompson
Margie Foster who is on our podcast today, she'll tell you more about herself. She led this heroic effort, she's probably going to give credit to everybody else. But the effort was, how do we actually rehome the hundreds and hundreds of families who have lost their houses here in Glen Ellen, here in Sonoma Valley. And they started doing person to person rehousing. It may sound an obvious thing to do. It may seem like maybe that's just what happens. But one of the things that we want you to know in this podcast is that so much of the recovery, the rebuilding and the reimagining begins with you. It begins with the citizen, it begins with emergent leaders who say, you know what? I see a need here. I know that I can actually improve the situation and lessen human suffering if I'm able to solve this one corner, this one piece of the puzzle. Well, Margie Foster, I worked for the county at the time that we had this disaster, this particular disaster, and I got a lot of calls from her. I had a lot of conversations with her because we were getting calls from people who had been burned out of their homes and they were looking for emergency housing or even long term housing.
Well, Margie and a few people from her community got together and they did whatever they could. They found vacation homes, they pulled RVs on to their homes and onto their lots, and maybe where there used to be houses for up to a year or more. I invited Margie on this podcast today to talk about what inspired her to do this, and the logistics of it because we are called How To Disaster. And we do want you to know that there are pathways forward, there are systems that have been done before that are not prescriptive, they are adaptive. And maybe there's a few things in her strategies of success that you can actually use for your own disaster.
So I really want to welcome to the podcast, Margie Foster, and thank you for spending this time with us. So Margie Foster, you are here with us, and we just had a pre conversation where you expressed that you are unsure if you have something to offer. I'm going to jump on that first because I think that's one of the most important things that this podcast could possibly do is to show people that everyone has a role to play. And emergent leadership is so incredibly valuable and important. So I welcome you to this podcast, and I'm also inviting you to tell us your story. And then we're going to take it from there. So welcome, Margie.
Margie Foster: Thank you. I'm just such a behind the scenes person. I'm not in a leadership position, but I do like to take charge of things that I can help with, but I'm behind the scenes. So this is not all that comfortable for me.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I'll tell you that, for me, it's also been a very uncomfortable learning experience because I certainly was not jumping in front of any cameras before COVID. So I totally get it. But this is why I think that people like you are really the secret sauce in recovering from disaster. You're not in it to be a hero, you're actually doing the heroics. So if you can, would you please take us back to the night of October 8, 2017. Tell us your fire story before we get started on how you stepped up to help your community.
Margie Foster: Well, following a very lovely Glen Ellen village fair day, we all went home and it got windy. But it gets windy here. Acorns were falling on the roof and everything seemed fine. We had no inclination of what was coming. But around, I think around 1:00 or 1:30 in the morning, we started hearing sirens. We thought, oh, a tree down on Warm Springs or Bennett Valley, and then we thought we heard fire engines going to cut down the trees. My husband was a volunteer firefighter so it wasn't unusual after a windy evening to hear sirens, but they kept coming. And then we heard, I believe it was a Sheriff or a Deputy with a loudspeaker saying: "Evacuate now." So like everyone else, there was no warning of anything. We grabbed our animals and got out of the house within about 10 minutes, not knowing which way to go. So it's the same story as everyone else. Confusion, there were fires along our route. Some power lines were down and sparking, and it was terrifying. But we got out and evacuated. And of course, didn't know we were evacuated for about two weeks. And didn't really know for sure if our house survived. But we eventually had friends that stayed within the fire area, rode their bikes around and told us it had. But until you drive up and see your home still standing, that was a wonderful feeling but very tearful getting to our home because the fire came within six houses of ours. And we're driving through a neighborhood where houses are gone, and we knew the people that live there, they were our neighbors. So it was a difficult time.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: It was really a stunning thing to see too because, especially if you're driving up Warm Springs, you get to the beginning of O'Donnell road. People who do wind and rain events in particular, they're used to seeing a certain type of distraction. But until you see what a wildfire does and make a fire, it's so stunning because it looks, it can look completely normal. And then all of a sudden, it's like just a bomb. It looks like a bomb went off, it can be miles, it can be yards, it can be feet, but that's what it looks like, that a bomb had gone off.
Margie Foster: There was a worker who came to our area, I can't remember, he was reinstalling PG&E or lighting people's gas meters. And he said that he had just come back from Afghanistan and said it looked similar to that, like a bomb had gone off. It looked like a war zone. And it was so sad. I know what you mean about the devastation of a fire because we survived the disaster. We actually lost our house after the floods of 1986 here in Glen Ellen, and we didn't get flooded, but we had a landslide under our house. It left us perched in midair with no land under us. But that was not as devastating as a fire. We lost our house, that was devastating. But we were able to get our belongings out, and the fire was a different kind of salvage devastation total. So we understand losing your home too.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: It's always awful to lose your home. And we're certainly not in a competition for any kind of disaster, but I do think it's important for those who are unfamiliar with what a fire disaster looks like. Three inches of oily ash, and your chimney and your gas line usually with a flame. It's very eerie in this way.
Margie Foster: Very eerie.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, very eerie. So tell us, can you describe Glen Ellen because we expect that there will be people in very rural communities, suburban communities, cities that listen to this podcast. And we'll be like, well, what did that community like, and how can I take some of these lessons from this podcast? So can you describe Glen Ellen for us?
Margie Foster: Well, we're a very tight knit community. We've been here about 45 years, and you just know everybody in the community, especially if you're involved in it, which my husband and I have been. And we lost about 25% of our homes. So that's one in every four families that has lost their home. And it was very emotional. You go to the store and the first thing you would say was, did you survive? Are you okay? And some weren't, and lots of tears were shed at the office, at the stores for months. That went on for months.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think people have to know how to expect that it will go on for months, and to maintain compassion, we like to remind people because we work with newly fire affected communities to say that the person in front of you is often undergoing trauma. At the same time, as you know, it's the trauma of fleeing the fire. And then it's often the trauma of what they've lost along the way. And remember that because it can be hard sometimes to keep ourselves in order and to keep our compassion going, and going, and going for such a long period of time.
Margie Foster: It could go on for years. Right now, three years after the fire, when we hear fire engines, more than one, many neighbors go out, and we watch the road. It's still there. Especially if you hear lots of fire engines, we're all going on our phones to pulsepoint, or broadcast to fly to find out. It hasn't left us after three years even. So it is a very long process.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: It really is. And also, we've had the unfortunate experience of having other mega fires. Most recently, the Glass Fire which came into Sonoma Valley. Not into Glen Ellen, but it was certainly terrifying for many of us who experienced the first round of this devastation because it actually burned into the burn scar of our 2017 fires. So you talked about a tool there, though, that I want to go back to which is on your phones, if your cellular phone is working. What have you done? Did you have Pulsepoint before 2017? Did you have Nixle alerts? What did you have in the way to actually notify you of a disaster or the need to evacuate?
"Everyone should find what they're comfortable with. But we need to make connections and watch out for our neighbors and our community." -Margie Foster
Margie Foster: Nothing. We'd never heard of Nixle, we'd never had a fire really. So we were not prepared. Other than that, that deputy going by saying evacuate now, none of us had any clues. Nor did the fire department. So everything came. It was such a weird event, and everyone says they've never seen anything like that. First this kind of event. So no, we were not prepared. And it took us about a year, less than a year later, I became a captain of a neighborhood group. We, my neighbor and I initiated a group. We canvass the area from the end of one fire zone up to a manageable. We canvass 32 properties, and 24, which is 74% responded yes, they would like to join our group. So we've created a phone tree, and we actually, we've used it a few times just to check on people when it was windy or really rainy, or for the Glass Fire. So we've instituted that. We have Nixle, and my neighbor was in former law enforcement so she has scanners. She's really hooked up to all that. But I couldn't take it all, that was too much for me. But I do Pulsepoint. I think everyone should find what they're comfortable with, but be notified if they happen to have a smartphone. And if not, to get in touch with someone who does to let them know, we need to make connections and watch out for our neighbors and our community.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: It's also important to note that you have more than one system to notify you in case of a disaster. So you're using Nixle which will notify you, but you're not depending on that. You're also looking at Pulsepoint, say that if you get a notification from Nixle, you can always check Pulsepoint because it'll tell you if it's a medical or fire emergency in your area.
Margie Foster: Right.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And then broadcast defy will actually allow you, it's like a scanner on your phone to hear what is going on across those public channels, public safety officers just so that people are aware that it is good to have a multitude of systems. We also recommend that you have an all weather radio that doesn't depend on their crank, or that you have batteries that are readily available to put it in there.
Margie Foster: Right. Yeah.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And so do you have a go-bag?
Margie Foster: Yeah. I have all my emergency contacts in it because I'm a captain of a group, that's really important. So it's in with my cat carrier, because I knew I would get the cat carrier. And yeah, we have a go-bag kind of loosely. We were really into it in the beginning, but we meds animal's deeds. Yeah, I have a list and we've given it to our emergency group, but I haven't done the best that I could do, but we will be fine.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay, good. Okay. I actually, in the intro, I explained that one of the reasons why I really wanted you to come here is because I do think you really believe in your emergent leadership and the compassion that was shown in the real change for the positive that you and a couple of people made in the re-housing of people locally. Now, let's be clear, that's not always possible post disaster. There are so many instances, especially with wildfires, where there isn't the housing to do that and you have to depend upon FEMA trailers. And there's a time and a place for that. But sometimes, in some communities, there are opportunities to re-house people. I believe it was called like, keep them in Glen Ellen, and it became keep them in Sonoma Valley. Can you talk to us about who you were doing that with how you set up a system. And just like all the hard work that you put into really trying to keep people who had lost everything close to home?
Margie Foster: Well, we went rogue. While we were evacuated, within about three or four days, I told my husband: "We need to find some use trailers and get them on our property." We knew they would be needed, but our prior disaster helped educate us to that because when we lost our house in 86, our kids were two and five, we knew we had to stay in the community. We wanted to stay in the community so we bought them an old trailer. A one little bedroom trailer and put it on our property so that we could stay in our community, because that was of the utmost importance to us. For the kids to have the normalcy and for us to be in our community. So after the fires we thought, that's what we need to do. That's what we can do right away. So with it, before we even got back to our property, we had purchased two use trailers. And we weren't equipped for that, but our goal was to get somebody in there by Thanksgiving.
So my husband worked 40 to 50 hours a day, rented tractors, clearing, leveling, making places for two, we dug up our lawn, we put a trailer where one of our lawns had been and created another area that we had to get an electrician out so they could be wired. One had an eevee electric vehicle. So at the time, we didn't know who was going to be moving in there. We just knew someone would need it so we set up trailer areas. And I have to say, we didn't get permits or anything because we were working so hard to get the places ready, that we just did it. But we did it right. We haven't had an electrician come in and set that up right. We purchased septic tank type things and arrays, and we got propane out to both of them. And we arranged for a septic company. We did all that by Thanksgiving. And so we just sort of took it upon ourselves to get it done. And by the time we got everybody in and went back to apply for a permit, they weren't doing it anymore. So we just thought, we'll take our chances. So that may not be the right way to do it, but that's the way we did it.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, if you can go rogue, we kind of get have to be in a disaster as long as you keep health and safety in your community at the forefront of what you're doing. And you did take, you still took care of the environment, taking care of your community. So you went rogue, but you really went rogue responsibly. And I think that that's really an important distinction. And during this time, the county of Sonoma did change an ordinance to allow people to actually have RVs on their property or on the street for up to six months at that point. And then I think they extended with another six months as long as they had septic or a contract with a company that would come and pump out the sewage. So you went rogue, but it wasn't like--
Margie Foster: We followed everything, we looked at the county's guidelines, and we did everything, but we just couldn't find the time to do that. And the folks ended up being here two and a half years. That's how long it took them to rebuild. So they just, yeah, it took two and a half years. So the six month thing, we knew wouldn't work. But none of us thought it would be two and a half years. But yeah, we were happy. We were so happy to be able to help them.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: With Arthur Dawson, one of the people who ended up, well, yeah, what a community treasure. I cannot imagine Glen Ellen youth, [inaudible], a person like Arthur Dawson, because he's a historian. He's like an ecological historian and is very much somebody who always comes back to the communities. So by doing this thing, and by extending your compassion for so long, you actually helped your community retain what I would consider a gem, and a very important person to have.
Margie Foster: And they had a dog and two cats. So even finding a rental would have been extremely hard, but we didn't know they were going to end up in our trailer. We just did it because we knew someone was going to need it. And Nick Brown, as in the other one, and he's active in the community as well. Neither of which we knew very well. We knew Arthur because he worked in the schools when our kids were there. I didn't know Nick at all, but they were community people. And it was important to keep them in our community.
"Normally what happens in a disaster is… the best of humanity meets the moment." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think one of the lessons that I really took from the 2017 fires, and certainly part of that was inspired by your actions, despite what's happening during COVID, which is a little bit different. Normally, what happens in a disaster is the community does not start to hoard and turn away, and pick up guns and start shooting each other for food. That's not how it really works. Normally happens is that the best of humanity meets the moment, and we turn towards each other. I would like to continue to advocate for that approach. And I love the fact that you didn't have an agenda for who might go in there. You were like, we just know that this is absolutely needed, and that we have the ability to provide it. And we're going to do that. I applaud you and your husband for doing that.
Margie Foster: Thank you.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So can you talk to us though about keep them in Glen Ellen and then keep them in Sonoma Valley. Because I know that I got calls from you when I worked with a supervisor saying, here's what we're doing. Or I was able to connect with you for a woman in her family who had lost their home, they ultimately ended up moving to a different area of the county. But you did manage to do, to pull off this really remarkable community led rehousing, can you talk to us about that?
"People feel a little more comfortable not just putting it out to the universe, but wanting to know someone that could verify for them or vouch for them. It's about knowing a lot of people and being connected to your community." -Margie Foster
Margie Foster: Sure. I think I helped place either 13 or 15 people just because I'm a visible community person, and so people trusted me. And a friend of mine, Ed Davis started a Facebook group for people who needed homes, and people who have homes to share or to rent. So he started that. And there was a lot of give and take that people were finding homes, but there were a few that just couldn't because they couldn't afford Glen Ellen prices. And we were able to help a family personally, a family of five to keep their kids in school locally, found them a place below market. And it's just that we know a lot of people. So someone said: "I have a cottage, but I don't want just anybody." So if I went to Ed and he gave me information on some people, and if we knew them, or they knew somebody, people felt a little more comfortable. Not just putting it out to the universe, but wanting to know someone that could verify for them, or vouch for them, or refer them. So it's just knowing a lot of people, and being connected to your community, and an Ed had that great Facebook group. So that gave us all a vehicle to help find people places.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And social media plays a huge role in emergent leadership too. I think that's remarkable. I know that I don't think any of us ever, and we used Facebook sure before 2017. But I remember this moment, looking at my Facebook in the first 24 hours and realizing that I had to open it up to fully public in order to get this done. And it really did. It really does actually work beautifully in a disaster. Where it goes wrong is people post hysteria, non expert opinions. In one case, there was a woman in Glen Ellen who didn't actually live there, but it was posting from San Francisco incorrect information about when you could get back in, and then paying to promote it for days when it was not only outdated. It was never true in the first place, prompting the Sheriff had to issue his statement. I don't know if you remember that, but there can be a downside. Well, when we're offline, I will tell you her name. And you will like, oh, of course. But yeah. Sometimes, it can be a negative, it can just be a huge positive as well.
"A resilient community is a connected community." -Jennifer Thompson
I want to go back to something that you said just a few minutes ago about how to, I think one of the things about a resilient community is in fact a connected community. And I just interviewed some people from vacation, which was off the coast of Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago, Wonderful Podcast. One of the things that was really important is when one of the people had to choose somebody to sort of lead an effort or put over half a million dollars into their care, as it were, in order to help the community, they chose somebody who is not in the field of disaster. They had to choose, and based upon their ethics, and knowing that they were good people, and that they knew enough people to make a difference. Can you talk to us about that and how you made a difference? Because you knew so many people, or some of the activities that you had done prior to the disaster that really ended up helping because you were so connected to the community?
Margie Foster: Well, my husband and I were both well known in the Dunbar School community, ask many of our friends, it was such a vibrant community. We were volunteers, got Volunteer of the Year as did many of our friends. And so that was a great way to connect. We're still connected with all those school friends 30 years later, but I'm also a bookkeeper so I had, I was a treasurer for [inaudible] friends of Glen Ellen in the late 70's, early 80's. So you meet people outside of the school community. And then the Glen Ellen Association, which was a precursor and actually started the Glen Ellen village fair. So with my skills, I was able to be part of all of these groups. And then the Glen Ellen forum, which also was very important after the disaster. You just become well known in the community. Yes, yes, people trust you. And even though I'm not a Big Horn tutor, I like to work behind the scenes, but you get to know people. You've been somewhere 45 years and you're involved in the community so people did trust me. Actually, a few friends from [inaudible] sent me $1,000 knowing that I would be able to get it where it needed to go because they didn't have any connection here, but they wanted to help after the fires. That happened a few times. And then you just made sure the money went, they wanted it to go to somebody specific and we did that.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: You did some individual assistance then with that money, is that how you chose it?
Margie Foster: Well, the Glen Ellen forum got it. We got quite a few grants. In fact, we got, I wrote all those down because we did a sheds program.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, you have two grants from ReBuild North Bay too.
Margie Foster: Well, we started getting one initially from the United Way Wine Country. And one of the things that was funded was a community meal, which was really important. It was in November, I believe, and we got a great outpouring of people. We gave a free community meal down in Downtown Glen Ellen and fed hundreds and hundreds, and there were many tears, many hugs and a lot of gratitude. So that was a wonderful thing. And that we also got funds for sheds, to purchase sheds for some of the fire ravaged properties, because it's really sad. But people who own those properties had come and collected a teacup, or a grandmother's spoon, or something from the ashes and set it aside. These things went missing, and that was just a horrible insult to injury.
So the forum applied for and got a grant for some sheds. But the need for sheds was so much, we were only able to give as much as the money covered the first round. But I was determined that everybody on the list would get one. And we only initially had enough for about 10 or 13. But then we applied for more grants, and ReBuild North Bay gave us two in alternating years because we also did a landscape program where people could get a gift certificate to get something green on their property. I mean, there were lots that were just black and nothing was left there. So even if you could get one tree, or some planting, we did that, but we got enough money to buy 33 sheds, and 27 gift certificates to fire survivors. ReBuild North Bay gave us two grants. The Beltane Wine Club, their wine club members gathered money together and gave us several thousands. The Glen Ellen Kenwood Rotary gave us funds for sheds, and United Way. So a lot of people helped in that regard.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think that something to note is you're not a professional grant writer, but you know how to ask for what it is that you need and are at your end to see what your community needs. And I think that that's a hugely valuable skill. I also want to note that sheds are a super practical, really wonderful cause for people who've lost their homes. And one of our philosophies here at ReBuild North Bay is that we do not means test. We didn't say, well, can't you afford a shed? Because one of our goals was that any person who had been a fire survivor who had lost their home, we wanted to give them something from those donor dollars from the community that said, you're not alone. We do care. This is what you've asked for. We believe that if you've asked for it, then you really do need it. And we would be honored to provide that for you. And a tree, because you do need visible deliverables of hope and progress as you go because the recoveries tell us how the recovery has gone in Glen Ellen. So we're gonna hold on with Margie for a moment while we listen to a few words from Fannie Mae.
Welcome back. We're here with Margie Foster, and we're going to talk now about recovery. So what I'd like to hear from a citizens perspective is what was the first year, like in the post disaster recovery and rebuild, what did you see your community go through? And what were a couple of things that really worked to either hasten it or lessen the sort of agony and grief?
Margie Foster: I would say in Glen Ellen, and very little happened in the first year, it was very frustrating. We were one of the last communities to get to rebuild. In fact, there are still homes being rebuilt through almost three years later. So there was a lot of frustration. Everyone thought they might be in their house after the first year. But after the first year, very few are even started. So it was frustrating. For the first two years into the second year, we started noticing houses going up. But it was frustration in the first year. A lot of it because people weren't getting their houses built. Contractors were already doing other things and prepping the land because it had been badly damaged by the mitigation of the cleanup. A lot of people had to get soil to rebuild. It was a problem, and it was very slow for Glen Ellen.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Let's talk about that for a minute because that's another thing. For people who live in wind and rain areas, they don't necessarily understand that when a wildfire comes through, it actually will destroy the infrastructure of the house all the way through to the foundation and below. So that means that your water systems, your wells, your septic tanks, those are destroyed that you cannot use. For the most part, you cannot reuse your foundation that they're destroyed. And because we hadn't really seen a fire of this magnitude before, there was a lot of miscommunication at the top about how far they should be scraping down because they scrape everything off your property. And what could be left behind? What could be reused? Like retaining walls can often be reused, but not always. It really depends on what an engineer says. But just the mitigation of the ground and what's on the ground, in many ways, we cleaned up quickly. And under a year, mistakes were made, including over scraping of the lots. Because there was a mandate from one part of the government saying that it had to be, you had to scrape all the way down until you found a certain level where there were no chemicals. But then they came back later and changed that ruling. So there was some confusion because people had never really been through this before. And there was definitely some over scraping. When you're talking about the people to bring in soil, some of those mitigations, especially in the heavily rural areas, were very difficult to overcome.
Margie Foster: Yeah. We have several friends and neighbors that experienced that. And I think that after the Glass Fires, we actually lost our family cabins in Kenwood. This last fire, four of them from the early 1900's, full of history. But they're doing it differently now. They said that they learned a lot from the 2017 fires of not to over scrape, not to go down as deep as what could be saved. But most people originally thought, well, we'll just do the same footprint, will save the foundation. But that didn't work out. So you just need to be patient and know that they're learning as they go. They've learned a lot since 2017.
"If you have an unprecedented event in your community, there isn't a sector that's going to get it right the first time out. So it's incredibly important that we share our lessons." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: They too are learning how to disaster. Remember very different perspectives. But it's also just a good thing for other communities to know that if you do have an unprecedented event in your community, there isn't a sector that's going to get it right the first time out. So it's incredibly important that we actually share our lessons. And one of those is that the first year, we often expect a lot of progress. And the first year is really about getting clean so that you can rebuild. And that can be very frustrating. So Margie, we have about 10 minutes left of our podcast, and I'm wondering what are the top five things you would like to impart upon newly disaster affected communities or people who are wanting to somehow be prepared? I don't know if that's really entirely possible, should this occur in their own community?
"Don't expect to go through it yourself. People will want to help, ask for it. And then when you get through your disaster, pay it forward." -Margie Foster
Margie Foster: Well, if you go to the fire preparedness website, you get a lot of information. And you should go because you go, oh, the overall think, remember that. But having a plan of where to go, and not everybody has more than one road to get out. Like Oakmont and here in Glen Ellen don't have too many roads out, but just know your exit strategy and know where you're going to meet up. And one of the big things, and I wrote it down because I wanted to say, you had asked how do you disaster, and the big thing is, don't expect to do it yourself. You have to get help, people will offer and people should offer to help even bringing you meals because there's so much paperwork to go through. When we lost our house back in 86, everyone wanted to know, how can I help you? And they brought us meals. We said: "Oh no, we don't need help." What we have to figure it out, but everybody needs to eat. So that's one thing people can do to help other friends who have gone through a disaster, but don't expect to go through it yourself. Ask for help, people will want to help, ask for it. And then when you get through your disaster, pay it forward to other people who will be in situations where they need help.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, I can't think of a better place to stop because we have a whole program called Pay It Forward. I firmly believe that we are currently working in Southern Oregon in Santa Cruz. And we worked with Paradise for, we still actually. I'm on the phone, Paradise still, like many days a week, but they don't need my help. He's just like my best friend colleague now at this point, and worked with Malibu. So much of that though was inspired by what we saw here, including from people like you. And I just want you to know that you may underestimate your role in the recovery. But I remember right after the fires thinking, I lived in the land of thousand heroes, and I certainly counted you, Margie, as one of those. I just want you to know that.
Margie Foster: Thank you. And ours, we thought our situation was terrible. But after Paradise, we felt fortunate almost that we didn't lose, we still had our post office, and our grocery store, and our gas stations, and they lost so much. It's just heartbreaking in that community, so our hearts go out to them still.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Absolutely. I will say that there's a Rebuild Paradise Foundation there, and that was stood up. I think I was there 12 days post disaster, but they have this really awesome community hero who was a reusable grocery bag salesman. He and his family made a lot of sacrifices so that he could stand up Rebuild Paradise Foundation. And to this day, he got some heat. That's what he does full time. And then he also shows up to help us, help other communities. Because when we go into new communities they're like, well, what do you want from us? And I'm like, I want to call you in a year. When this happens to somebody else, I want you to say, here's what we did, and see if this might help you adapt. And that's why we started this podcast too. What I'm hoping is that somebody sees this, and sure a disaster befall their community. Or if one just has, that they realize that they too can merge the foster, if they can use their social capital in order to make a big difference in their community like you did for yours.
Margie Foster: Thank you.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, thank you again for joining us on How To Disaster. My guest today has been Margie Foster. She is a lesson in how to step up for your community and how important the role of the emergent leader is. And thank you again, Margie, for spending this time with us.
Margie Foster: Thank you, and nice to finally meet you, Jennifer.