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Our Future After the Fire: Non-profit donates $1 million to help first responders with trauma

The North Valley Community Foundation has been working on choosing where vital grant money should go after the Camp Fire.

Posted: Oct 24, 2019 6:24 PM
Updated: Oct 24, 2019 8:41 PM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - The North Valley Community Foundation has been working on choosing where vital grant money should go after the Camp Fire.

David Little is the executive vice president of the organization.

"We are both giving direct assistance to fire survivors who need it, through our partners on the ground but also giving to agencies who need help in the longer term," Little said.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office is one of those agencies requesting aid.

"Overwhelming sense of gratitude, I was so thankful for that," said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

Sheriff Honea met with Little in January. He admitted that some of his deputies are struggling with the emotional impact of being on the front lines of the Camp Fire.

"I think first responders have a unique set of circumstances that nobody else has," Little said.

Rather than balling it all up, now they have an outlet. 

The foundation granted Butte County first responders with $1 million for specialized counseling and fitness programs.

"They recognize how important it is to keep our first responders both emotionally and mentally healthy so they can go out and do the job that they need to do to protect our community," Honea said.

Sheriff Honea says this aid was much needed, considering that deputies have to keep working despite the lingering trauma.

"That trauma compounded with the day to day trauma that is so prevalent within this particular field," Honea said.

The North Valley Community Foundation says so far they have granted more than $24 million in Camp Fire recovery through Butte Strong fund.

"First responders saw things that nobody could imagine, I think we all realize that not only on Nov. 8 but the weeks and months after that. Searching through remains for example and consoling families, it had to be a difficult time for them," Little said.

Honea says there's a strong stigma with first responders asking for help, but he says that shouldn't deter them.

"Historically this has been a profession where our job is to help others and as a result, there's a reluctance for us to seek help for ourselves and there is a stigma associated with seeking help for emotional trauma. Not only in our tradition but I think culturally there's a stigma on that," Honea said.

It's a stigma that Honea hopes all first responders can overcome.

Little says as long as aid is needed after the Camp Fire, his organization will give that aid, as long as they're able.

"The committee thought it was very easy to approve this grant. Everybody's indebted to police, fire and sheriff's deputies," Little said.

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