Sac State organizations galvanize support for Camp Fire survivors

ASI, Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative and Greek life members organize aid


Photo courtesy of Mishal Gill

Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative’s Jaskaran Nijjar, vice president, and Samreet Kaur, supplies manager and social media coodinator. Sac State’s BPSHI service club donated food and menstrual products to Butte County shelters Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018.

Camille Escovedo

Members of the campus community are organizing donation drives and fundraisers to provide basic needs to survivors of the Camp Fire, now the deadliest and most devastating fire in California history.

“At this point, we’ve been notified that what’s really needed are monetary donations,” said Noel Mora, president of Associated Students, Inc. “So, what we’ve gone ahead and done with our ASI is to really help to spread the links to reputable and to necessary funds to send people aid and monetary contributions.”

ASI asks that people donate to Chico State University’s Wildcats Rise Fire Recovery Fund for members of Chico State’s community directly affected by the fires, according to Mora.

Sac State’s chapter of Bhagat Puran Singh Health Initiative has organized supply drives to Butte County. BPSHI is a service club inspired by Sikh philanthropist Bhagat Puran Singh to provide health services to underserved communities.

Samreet Kaur, BPSHI supplies manager and social media coordinator, said club members contacted Seva Selfless Service, a nonprofit organization, which assigned them a location.

Sacramento State student Harinder Singh, Jasmeet Saroya, and Jaskaran Nijjar collect pizzas to donate to an Oroville church sheltering evacuees Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. Photo courtesy of Samreet Kaur

Their task was to deliver pizza for 75 evacuees sheltered at the Church of the Nazarene in Oroville and food and menstrual products to evacuees at the Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley. Kaur said BPSHI raised $1,210 through social media to pay for the supplies.

“The experience was very unforgettable,” Kaur said. “I remember when I walked in with the feminine hygiene products, a little girl came up to me, and I could tell she was very nervous and she quietly asked me for a pad.”

Kaur said the girl and herself were interrupted when she was asked to move her vehicle, but that she was able to quickly hand the girl a pad from the truck.

“At that moment, I could tell that these people were in need for very basic items that we have every day,” Kaur said. “To imagine that they don’t have access to these items, and their homes and everything they had was gone, was very shocking to me. It’s hard to put things into words right now.”

Members of Sac State’s Greek life are also organizing humanitarian endeavors.

Andrew Vonwal, Interfraternity Council president, said he is working with Sac State fraternities on a fundraiser for the Wildcats Rise Recovery Fund.

“I think if this was happening on our campus at Sacramento State, I would want the same community in Chico State to do the same for us,” Vonwal said.

Vonwal is also vice president of university affairs on Sac State’s ASI Board of Directors. He said he spoke with Mora about the Wildcats Rise Recovery Fund and that planning will begin Tuesday with all fraternities present.

Vonwal said the council missed their regular meeting time when Sac State’s campus was ordered to close due to unhealthy air quality caused by the smoke from the wildfire.

The fundraiser will be smaller than what the council typically does because it would happen once students return from Thanksgiving break, Vonwal said. There are about three weeks left of the semester by then, including finals week, leaving the council little time to organize, according to Vonwal.

Mariah Strong, a communication studies major at Sac State, said she is coordinating a donation drive for Camp Fire victims in Chico. Strong said she has a friend from Chico State who announced she would take donations back to Butte County with her.

Strong said she decided to get involved and posted a flyer on Instagram asking for donations of blankets, coats, children’s underwear, socks, diapers, bags, backpacks and gift cards. She said she also accepts Venmo contributions that she uses to buy Walmart and gas gift cards for evacuees.

“I was honestly shocked with how much I got; like my whole living room is covered with bags of blankets, clothes, toys, anything,” Strong said.  

Strong is a member of Alpha Chi Omega and the sorority’s delegate on the Panhellenic Sorority Council. She said the donation drive is not an official Alpha Chi Omega effort, but that she has received support and organizing assistance from her sorority sisters.

She said many members of Greek life have shared her flyer online since her post.

“I know people have stereotypes about Greek life, you know, people don’t think necessarily that they would help with something like this,” Strong said. “So it was really awesome to see Greek life step up and put a lot of effort in helping all these people who are really suffering from the fires.”

Strong said she will continue to collect donations over Thanksgiving break, so when her friend returns to Chico, she will transport the supplies to Chico’s Elk Lodge and the Chico Walmart, where a tent city of evacuees has formed in the parking lot.

“I think it’s really devastating to see this, but amazing to see how our community can come together in these awful times,” Strong said.