By Maja Peirce
Following the devastation of the Ocotillo Fire, local residents and businesses rallied together to raise over $30,000 in support of those who were displaced from their homes and lost businesses.
The fundraiser Creekers Helping Creekers began as a Facebook post by Lauren VanWinkle, co-owner of Local Jonny’s. The post expressed interest in holding a takeout dinner for anyone who was displaced from their homes and anyone who volunteered their time and money to the relief effort. After receiving an overwhelming amount of responses from the community, the initial takeout dinner transformed into a much larger fundraising effort supported by multiple local businesses.
“This was one of the most heart warming, humbling, just loving moments for me to be able to see all these people who have come together for this cause,” said Rebecca Harding, manager of Local Jonny’s.
With four days to plan the event, VanWinkle asked Harding to get in touch with Brittany Lorincz, owner of Cool Cat’s Rescue. Lorincz created a 501c3 nonprofit bank account for all proceeds to go to the relief effort.
The event, hosted on Saturday, June 6, included an ongoing silent auction with items donated from all across town, booths selling shirts, hats, and other merchandise. Desert Mermaid Boutique set up a booth selling her products and raised $1,000 from the items she sold. Jane Spicer sold 250 Cave Creek Strong shirts. The shirts grew to be so popular a local bought one Brooke Dallas, owner of Big Earls was wearing right off her back for a $100 donation and another order was placed for 140 more shirts to be made. They will be available at Local Jonny’s for $20 each until sold out.
Free food and drinks were provided by Melissa Kessell at Shamrock Farms. While Shamrock Farms donated food, after the amount of responses the Facebook post got she spent an additional $500 to $600 of her own money to ensure everyone who attended the event was fed.
Marc Pegler, owner of Frontier Town, donated tables and chairs, while Christina French decorated and handmade centerpieces from plants donated from the local Home Depot that were available for a donation of $10. Pandy Ray of Chicks with Picks set up musicians who played live music even while being out of town on vacation.
Big Earls Greasy Eats recently fundraised $10,000 in a day of businesses which they contributed to the Creekers Helping Creekers fundraiser.
“We were able to raise money to help the Fire victims and bring our community together. We have always had a close community up here and everyone was so generous. From businesses donating to individuals showing up with donations as well as lending a helping hand to those in need. “Proud to have called The Creek home for over 23yrs,” said Michelle Penington, a local artist and longtime resident who helped organize the event.
The silent auction, which will continue through the end of June, had an array of donations ranging from physical items to services people are willing to provide. Town Council member Paul Diefenderfer made a set of metal napkin rings, The Rare Earth Gallery donated a quartz luminary worth approximately $500, and local jewelers and artists such as Scott Randall and Nicole Harry donated pieces of their work. Larson Excavating donated ground cover while others are donating pool cleaning and other services to the highest bidder.
At the end of June, the fundraiser’s organizers plan to work with Mayor Ernie Bunch to gather a list of people who have come forward and asked for financial help after the fire. They plan on distributing the money evenly amongst those on the list.
“Anyone who has spent any time in Cave Creek just gets it. There is a feel to this place and an energy that is magnetic and draws people in. When you experience it for yourself you want to do everything you can do to help preserve that, take care of that, and to nurture that. So when the fire happened and people lost homes, businesses, property, and animals, all of us rallied as one big weird family. We took care of each other despite all political or religious beliefs. There was nothing that prevented us from coming together and being there for one another, for Cave Creek,” said Harding.
As of Monday, the amount of money raised stands at $33,000. To donate or participate in the auction, one can visit https://m.facebook.com/groups/253179115960454/?ref=share