UTTER DEVASTATION Sunset falls on a destroyed home outside of Kenwood, CA. It was one of the thousands of homes claimed by the Wine Country fires.

A company is like a family, and when disaster strikes one part of an organization—and communities we serve—it’s felt throughout. Our newspaper group publishes seven Bay Area weeklies, including the North Bay Bohemian, based in Santa Rosa.
When devastating, uncontrolled flames struck Sonoma County on Oct. 8, the Bohemian’s office closed and staff scattered because of evacuations, smoke, closed roads and in one case, a lost home.
The first concern was for the staff’s safety. Everyone kept in touch with one another to ensure that everyone was accounted for. We tracked down people who hadn’t checked in.
Our second mission was to put out that week’s newspaper. During times of crisis, reliable sources of information to explain events, inform and analyze are crucial.
Luckily our systems are virtualized and they were put to the test. We found out that we don’t even need an office to publish a newspaper. Even though cellular and Internet connections were spotty or went out in some cases, our editors, writers, graphic artists and sales team members worked in cafes, from home or out of the homes of friends, relatives and good Samaritans, often in nearby counties.
Our third item of business was to establish the Rebuild Sonoma Fund to rebuild Sonoma and Napa counties. Within a day, we registered the charitable fund with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, created a logo and url and built a website to accept donations at rebuildsonomafund.org.
Californians have a generous spirit, and we have been encouraged by the early donations.
Readers can make a difference. We can help our Bay Area neighbors rebuild their lives and communities by getting money directly to the impacted areas. The fund has no administrative overhead and gets money straight to the front lines of the relief effort.
We have no control over when natural disasters strike, and this is one of California’s worst ones. We do have the power to make a difference, and by contributing to the effort, we can all be part of restoring some normalcy to our neighbors who’ve had their lives turned upside down these past two weeks.
Donations can be made online at RebuildSonomaFund.org.

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Dan is a newspaper editor and publishing executive.


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