NORTH FORK – There were tears of joy in the Paradise area last weekend when five families who have lost everything in the Camp Fire were blessed with temporary homes as they work to rebuild their lives.
North Fork residents Diane and Vince Mercado have made it their mission to see that as many families as possible have a roof over their heads as winter moves in, organizing a caravan of travel trailers to donate to families who have no place to go.
Vince and Diane started off in North Fork Saturday morning at 6:15 a.m., meeting up with Richard and Amber Blalock of Mariposa, and Debby Carter of Oakhurst at the Walmart parking lot in Madera. The group then traveled north and met up with Enoch Christopherson at the Turlock rest stop, adding another to their caravan.
“When we tried to pay them, they said they didn’t want the money,” says Diane. “They just wanted to donate the trailer, and told us to use the money to buy another one for another family.”
The group dropped off their first trailer in Oroville for the pastor of the Calvary Chapel and his wife, who had been living in a Sunday school room in their church. The worship pastor and youth pastor also lost their homes. All are now living in the church parking lot, but have a roof over their heads.
“The pastor’s wife couldn’t stop sobbing in my arms,” says Diane. “The pastor was overwhelmed. He’s still texting me thanking me. He said we were an answer to their prayers. They have a home again.”
The next trailer went to a family of five. The husband lost his job at the hospital where he worked because it was partially destroyed in the Camp Fire and it will be at least a year before it’s back up and running. The family now has a place to live as he travels around for work.
“This trailer was set up on the side of a house,” says Diane. “Thank God we had a trucker with us! He was able to back it into a very tight space. He was literally within two inches of the house. The husband and wife were very grateful, and I noticed their 14-year-old daughter off by herself wiping the tears from her eyes. She kept thanking the donor and saying what an amazing trailer it was.”
The third and fourth trailers went to families of Hope Church of Paradise, Calif. The pastors chose the families who would be blessed with these amazing gifts, and the caravan members met them in the church parking lot of Grace Community Church in Chico.
“Even though Hope Church burned to the ground and most of their members lost their homes, they are committed to rebuilding the community of Paradise,” says Diane. “The associate pastor and his wife were so grateful for the donations. They also lost their homes.”
The fifth and final trailer went to a single mom with two disabled children. Both kids have severe food allergies (one child can only eat 10 things) and the mom said it was extremely difficult to try and prepare meals in other people’s kitchens.
“Every meal is a long, tedious ordeal,” says Diane. “Now she has her own trailer with a working kitchen to take care of her children.”
The mom was able to find a place for her trailer by responding to a Facebook page where the residents of Chico are offering their yards for set-up.
“She was overwhelmed! Her two children were playing and jumping on the bunk beds; they were having a blast. Richard and Amber Blalock of Mariposa donated this trailer and had stocked it with everything she needed to make it home, including new bedding for all and toys laid out on the bunk beds for the kids.”
Diane says they will definitely be doing this again on Saturday, Dec. 8. They are still looking for trailer donations and have set up a GoFundMe page in hopes that people will give to the cause, allowing them to buy very good quality, used trailers.
“Some dealerships and personal sellers on Craigslist have been wonderful about bringing the prices way down for us,” says Diane.
“Over 14,000 homes were destroyed in this fire. Chico is a town in distress because of the severe housing crisis. A relief worker compared it to a triage unit. FEMA has promised 80 trailers, but they won’t be there for another month (if then).”
Diane says they will continue making trips as long as they have money to buy good quality, used trailers.
“If you have been wanting to help in a tangible way, this is it. They don’t need any more clothes, toiletries, or other stuff. They need a roof over their heads. May God bless you abundantly as you consider how you can make a difference in a suffering family’s life.”
Contact information for trailer donations Diane Mercado: AllAboutGodsGlory1@yahoo.com