A group of women from San Elijo Hills banded together Sunday to collect donations for victims who lost everything in the Cocos Fire that ravaged the San Marcos community.
Melinda Staab, Suzanne Beyerlein and Andrea Maur are all members of the SHE’s of San Elijo Hills, a neighborhood group that brings together women who live in the San Elijo and San Marcos area.
When the Cocos Fire was at its peak earlier this week, all three women and their families were forced to evacuate their homes. Like so many of their neighbors, the women worried about whether they’d have homes to come back to.
Staab said the SHE’s kept in touch on social media, updating one another on the status of the fire and evacuations and offering each other support.
The fire, she said, brought the group and the San Elijo Hills community closer together.
Staab, Beyerlein and Maur were among the lucky ones.
Once the evacuations were lifted, they each returned to their homes, which were all spared by the fire.
Other residents in the Cocos Fire zone, however, weren’t so lucky.
Staab decided it was her group’s responsibility to come together and help those fire victims. Within 24 hours, the SHE’s organized a large donation drive for fire victims, collecting piles of clothing, furniture, toys, money, gift cards and other donations for at least two families who lost their homes to the Cocos Fire.
“We were lucky enough to be able to come back to our homes the other day, and we realized that not everybody could. We wanted to do something to help,” said Staab.
“Some people just left with the shirts on their backs. There are some families that have children who have nothing. We wanted to give them a sense of normalcy and some items that they can take until they find a place,” she added.
Maur hopes this small gesture inspires others to pay it forward, too.
“Hopefully this will inspire people to actively look for people that they can help in their own communities,” she said.
At Sunday’s event, dozens of people turned out to donate anything and everything they could. Bag after bag, piles began to form – piles that will hopefully give fire victims a fresh start as they begin the difficult process of rebuilding their lives.
According to fire officials, the destructive Cocos Fire, which began Wednesday around 4 p.m., ripped through 1,995 acres and destroyed at least 40 structures in its path. It was 85 percent contained as of Sunday morning, with all evacuations lifted.
The cause of the fire, like so many of the other blazes that consumed the county, remains under investigation. Cal Fire officials said 1,148 firefighters had a hand in battling the Cocos Fire. The teams included 133 fire engines, six air tankers, two helicopters, two dozers and 16 water tenders.