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Santiam Canyon residents helping each other through the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund

With fires still burning and areas under evacuation, people in the Santiam Canyon are proving their resilience and are already finding ways to help one another.

STAYTON, Ore. — We don't know exactly how much damage towns in the evacuation zone in the Santiam Canyon have suffered. They're still closed off, but from the video we’ve seen people take from inside the evacuation zones, we know the damage is extensive.

The rebuilding will take a long time and the people living in the Santiam Canyon know that.

Even though it’s still early, with fires are still burning and areas still under evacuation, people in the communities along Highway 22 are proving their resilience and are already finding ways to help one another.

You may remember the Chauran family. Earlier this week, they like many other families up and down the Santiam Canyon discovered their home in Gates was gone.

RELATED: 'It is a war zone': Fire levels homes throughout Santiam Canyon

“We were flooded with people contacting us wanting to help, wanting to know what they could do,” said Chauran.

She said her niece in Texas even started a GoFundMe account for her family.

“It made us feel really good. It was nice to have such support from the community,” Chauran said.

But it also made the Chaurans think about the countless others who also needed help.

That’s when she decided to do something about it. She called up her friend Deana Freres, who she says is active in the community.

“I told her 'hey, I’m in my trailer, I don’t have internet, but this is what I wanna do. How can I make this happen?'” said Chauran.

“She was hopeful and upbeat and says ‘I’ve got this idea and I didn’t know who to call, so I thought I’d call you and you were on my mind,’ and this is how this all started,” Freres said.

Credit: Christine Pitawanich / KGW
Cindy Chauran and Deana Freres who both spearheaded the creation of the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund

Freres called up Santiam Hospital and about 24 hours after that call, they were able to help set up the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund through the Santiam Hospital’s Service Integration Team, known as SIT.

“They are an established 501c3 so it became really clear that we could swiftly set up a fund specific for fire relief,” said Freres.

The team already responds to needs in the community with representatives from many different agencies and community businesses.

The idea is that the team at Santiam Hospital will be the go-between, connecting people in need with people who can give.

“We want to be a receptacle to manage all those ideas and offers of support to make sure they get matched up […] effectively with those who need it in the community in a fast way,” Freres said.

“We’re pivoting the Santiam fire into Santiam resilience and how we’re gonna move forward.”

Resilient is the perfect word for the people living the the rural communities along Highway 22.

Both Freres and Chauran have lost homes to the fire, but are still thinking of others.

“If you want to do something for us, that’s what we want you to do [donate] so we can help others,” said Chauran.

She’s challenging people to give $10 to the fund that will go toward rebuilding communities in the Santiam Canyon. In addition, she’s challenging other cities and communities to also come together.

Chauran said it’s not necessarily about giving money, because she knows times are hard for a lot of people, but folks can also give time or other resources.

Both Chauran and Freres hope the new fund will help streamline help to people in the Santiam Canyon instead of possibly having to wait longer for help from some of the bigger organizations.

How to Donate

Freres said starting Sept. 12, it’s expected donations can be made online at www.santiamhospital.org.

Monetary donations can be mailed to:

Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund

c/o Santiam SIT of Santiam Hospital

1401 North 10th Ave.

Stayton, OR. 97383

Donation sites are also set up and are open Monday-Friday:

- SIT Mobile at 101 Center St. Ste. A in Sublimity, from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

- Immaculate Conception Church Office at 1077 N. 6th Ave. in Stayton, from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

- Cascade School District at 10226 Marion Rd. SE in Turner, from 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. 

A Facebook page has also been set up with more information.