Camp Fire: Wells Fargo gives $3.25 million donation for housing, businesses
Karen Woodruff, vice president of community affairs for Wells Fargo, announces the company's $3.25 million donation for housing and small businesses to help victims of the Camp Fire at a press conference in Chico on Friday. (Risa Johnson -- Enterprise-Record)

Camp Fire: Wells Fargo gives $3.25 million donation for housing, businesses

By  | rjohnson@chicoer.com | Chico Enterprise-Record

CHICO — Wells Fargo announced Friday morning a $3.25 million donation to the Butte Strong Fund, to help get people displaced by the Camp Fire housed and to support small business owners affected by the fire.

Of the total donation, $2 million will go toward housing individuals who are currently at the Red Cross shelter and the remaining $1.25 million will supply grants to help local businesses reopen. As of Wednesday, over 300 fire victims remained at the Chico shelter with an expected Jan. 31 closing date.

The funding for housing assistance will be used to provide case management and services to get those still at the shelter into stable housing. Wells Fargo says its donation will help subsidize rent for up to 300 displaced families for up to six months and go to providing up to 100 units of temporary workforce and senior housing.

Casey Hatcher, economic and community development manager for Butte County, said at a press conference Friday that the Butte County Board of Supervisors would consider and accept the donation at the board meeting on Tuesday. The county is in charge of shelter during a local disaster.

The donation will help remove barriers holding shelter residents back from moving on to the next place, Hatcher said.

“Those barriers look a little different for everybody,” she said. “It might be that they need some help paying for transportation. It might be that they were living in an RV or living in a little bit of an insecure housing situation before the fire and they need to reestablish a place to stay and live and we’ll help them to purchase or identify those units.”

To aid small businesses, Wells Fargo has earmarked funding for loans for businesses, among other things.

“It’s really our way of saying let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to home, and let’s get back to work and help our people have a sense of movement forward,” said Karen Woodruff, vice president for community affairs for Wells Fargo. “A lot of that will be for loan capital and the ability for them to purchase equipment and get their businesses back up and running.”

The company is partnering with organizations including 3CORE, a local nonprofit business consulting firm, to help the community rebuild.

 

Patty Hess, CEO of 3CORE, said the funding would allow for a program to provide low-interest rate loans to businesses affected by the fire. The nonprofit corporation 3CORE is the economic development planning and coordinating agency for the Tri-County region which includes Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties.

“We know that in order to recover, businesses need to be empowered to act with certainty,” Hess said. “This funding allows us to make such a commitment.”

Wells Fargo’s donation went to the Butte Strong Fund, which is a culmination of Camp Fire fundraisers of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the North Valley Community Foundation. The foundation manages the Butte Strong Fund.

Alexa Benson-Valavanis, president and CEO of the North Valley Community Foundation, expressed gratitude for the large donation and said that Wells Fargo’s support demonstrated a “thoughtful and collaborative approach to making a significant difference in our communities.”

Benson-Valavanis announced several additional grants Friday morning, including at least $1 million for temporary workforce housing — at some sites already selected and at others to be determined. The foundation is also giving more than $500,000 in grant funding to the town of Paradise to hire a planning consultant and to provide B-Line bus passes for Paradise-area students, it was announced on Friday.

The Butte Strong Fund now totals about $40 million, Benson-Valavanis said.

Prior to its latest donation, Wells Fargo donated $1.3 million for immediate Camp Fire relief.