OROVILLE, Calif. - Rain did not drown out community spirit for those celebrating the Christmas holiday in Oroville. Recovery from the Bear Fire/North Complex, the Camp Fire, and Covid-19 conditions have made the celebration of Christmas somewhat difficult for many locals who lost their homes in Berry Creek or Feather Falls or along the Highway 70 corridor in Butte County during recent wildfires.
On Christmas Day Frank Martinez and volunteers from Berry Creek United provided a community dinner at the Lakeside Market in Oroville. More than 100 families received Christmas dinners in the parking lot of the market, and other meals were being taken by volunteers to deliver to people who could not make it out there.
The Lakeside Market has become a place evacuees know to go immediately during a crisis, to band together to stay safe and gather information and donations. Berry Creek United was started by Martinez, who helped many people survive and get access to food and community and a safe place to bed down after the Camp Fire. The Berry Creek resident wanted to do it all over again when his own community was struck down by the Bear Fire.
Martinez explained one big reason why he has taken on the responsibility of serving his community. "It's to make sure that everyone who needs a meal gets a meal," he said.
Martinez explained that they were able to give out over $100,000 dollars worth of groceries to those in need, in addition to providing the holiday to-go meal. He said that is especially important for those who lost their homes this fire season.
"There's people up the hill living in their burned-out vehicles, in their vans, and it's snowing up there," Martinez explained. "The people up here in Berry Creek, Brush Creek, Feather Falls, and Forbestown... It's going to be the same thing for them."
People need to eat, even if they don't have their own table," he explained.
"We're making sure this family has a whole tri-tip, a ham, some pork, so they will be able to have a dinner tonight too," explained Martinez as he handed out more food to community members Friday afternoon.
Sherri Cearson and her family know just how hard the pandemic can be. She explained to Action News Now reporter Esteban Reynoso that this is a difficult Christmas season. Last year her mother passed away, but this year has had some other extreme challenges. "Our family has all been in quarantine for over a week," Cearson explained. "So we haven't been able to grocery shop or do anything."
"It's been kind of a rough day, so this is very special for us," she said as she drove through the vehicle line to get her family a free Christmas dinner.
Berry Creek United, the foundation run by Martinez, is planning more dinner giveaways. They would like to produce one each month of 2021. He said this can only be done because of critical and generous donations that have helped him to work with others to provide food and support.