Toy Donation and Other Relief Efforts Help Victims of Caldor Fire

A swing set, burned by the Caldor Fire, in Grizzly Flats on Sept. 26, 2021. (Jacquelin Mullinax/NTD News)

Ashlee Smith started Ashlee’s Toy Closet when she was eight years old, after she lost her house to the Angora Fire in 2007. Now, at 22, she’s still giving out toys, this time to children impacted by the Caldor Fire in California’s Grizzly Flats.

She participated in a relief effort for fire victims on Sept. 26.

“That big pink truck out there was full of toys. So we estimate between 10 to 15 thousand toys, and it was all for them,” Smith told NTD News.

She and her organization have been covering every West Coast fire.

“We do donate toys to kids to single house fires, Christmas, birthdays. We kind of do it all, so I kind of have a stockpile of toys, I like to call it,” she said.

In the future, Smith hopes to have an East Coast chapter of Ashlee’s Toy Closet to help children impacted by hurricanes.

A play area, charred by the Caldor Fire, in Grizzly Flats on Sept. 26, 2021. (Jacquelin Mullinax/NTD News)

One resident who was helping distribute the toys said she lost her home to the fire. But she’s present to help her community.

“I’m another one. I love helping people,” 84-year-old Maxine Tyler told NTD News. She has lived in Grizzly Flats since 1955 when she married Walt Tyler.

Her husband, who passed away 10 years ago, had an elementary school named after him. It is called Walt Tyler Elementary School, but it was destroyed by the fire.

“He was big into community, doing things for the community. And I think that’s why [the school was named after him]. Because he was in the fire safe council, he was in the fire department … you name it, he was in it,” said Tyler.

A broken sign at the remains of Walt Tyler Elementary School in Grizzly Flats on Sept. 26, 2021. (Jacquelin Mullinax/NTD News)

three organizations Global Empowerment Mission (GEM), Gleaners, and E&J’s Kitchen are sponsors of the Caldor Fire relief effort.

“Today we were able to do everything from children and baby needs, clothing, shoes, hygiene, household necessities,” Elizabeth Jernberg, owner of E&J’s Kitchen, told NTD News. “ GEM and Be Strong department has family necessity boxes, which is also [an accumulation] of Liquid I.V., sanitizers, socks, towels, and little blankets.”

y also offer camping gear and groceries. y help people get through the first phase of recovery until FEMA steps in.

“And then we’ll work on our phase two, which will be stuff to help people rebuild their homes and hopefully do tool drives,” Jernberg said. “We don’t promise anything like that, we just try to step into that category and work towards it. And usually it happens, and sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not.”

Jernberg said they plan to go to the Fawn Fire in Shasta County next to help the evacuees.

With reporting by Jacquelin Mullinax

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