Woolman, Sierra Friends Center community gathers to grieve one month after Jones Fire
Observing the one-month mark following the loss of several buildings in the Jones Fire, alumni and friends of Woolman and the Sierra Friends Center met at the campus Sunday for a “Gathering to Grieve”.
Marty Coleman-Hunt, interim director of the Sierra Friends Center, called it “a chance for everyone to grieve and express what their feelings are about the trauma they personally went through, and whatever wishes they have for the future.”
Coleman-Hunt said the event was limited to 60 people and held outdoors, spread across the campus’ soccer field, in an effort to mitigate risk of COVID-19 transmission.
“We were able to express our gratitude,” said Coleman-Hunt, recounting that several members of the Penn Valley Fire Department who had fought the fire at the Sierra Friends Center site were present Sunday.
Shelly Covert, spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe, opened the gathering with a series of songs.
“(The songs) really touched our hearts. It was about loss and grief — and hope also,” said Coleman-Hunt.
She reported on the campus’ website last month that farm buildings, cabins, a bath house, and Madrone Hall — which housed Sierra Streams Institute — were among the buildings lost in the fire.
Since then, she said, members of the community have been reaching out with inquiries about visiting the site and volunteering to help. It had not been possible immediately following the fire, because of potential danger in the debris, according to Coleman-Hunt. She said the gathering Sunday included a walk-through arranged so the group could safely see the burnt areas.
“PG&E crews have been here non-stop, taking trees down that were potential threats to any of (their) wires,” said Coleman-Hunt. “We have to get the trees down before the rains get started, because we can’t have the debris starting to clog up the creeks and then causing more erosion and flooding.”
In response to the community reaching out with offers to volunteer, she said the Sierra Friends Center will be announcing community work days as soon as they are able to finalize their plans and have them approved by the county.
Coleman-Hunt said that, after the Sierra Friends Center put out a call for photos of the lost buildings on their social media and website, numerous alumni and others associated with Woolman programs over the years have been sharing old photos with her.
“It’s been a fun thing for people,” she said, describing this aftermath as an opportunity for many to contemplate the good times they have had at the Sierra Friends Center.
Although the call for photos was originally made for insurance information purposes, Coleman-Hunt said she is collecting them to post in a scrapbook project on the Center’s website, so that anyone can enjoy them and reminisce.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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