A devastating fire destroyed River City Food Bank yesterday

Wednesday, I reviewed River City Food Bank’s Thanksgiving appeal letter.  (The message: many first-timers, families and seniors are turning to RCFB for emergency food supplies, and need goes up another 15% during the holidays.)  The next morning, I awakened to the devastating news that River City Food Bank here in Sacramento had been gutted by fire.  (No people were hurt, thankfully, but one of the Food Bank’s kitties died in the fire and the other is missing.)

So much has happened in 24 hours.  So much more needs to happen.

For those of you whose hearts are moved, knowing that RCFB is the only food bank that serves anyone in need from anywhere in Sacramento County, and that it relies almost entirely on individual donations, here are…

Ways you can help:
  • Tell your friends.  Tweet it, post it, become a friend on Facebook.
  • River City Food Bank is accepting donations of all kinds. Online monetary donations are preferred at www.rivercityfoodbank.org
  • A list of immediate needs can also be found on at www.rivercityfoodbank.org
  • Goodwill Industries in Sacramento is accepting donations of canned and non-perishable food items. Donations can be made at any of 47 Goodwill Donation Xpress locations, all of which are listed at www.goodwillsacto.org.

In this initial post, I’ll try to capture some notes on how the Food Bank responded in the past 24 hours.  In an upcoming post, I’ll share some of the amazing stories about how individuals businesses have responded with donations of temporary space, furniture, food drives, and more.  (Thanks, too, to United Way for putting the news of the fire on its home page within hours.)

  • Executive director Eileen Thomas was on site before dawn and in front of TV cameras by 6 a.m.  The on-site support of 3Fold Communications and Board Vice President Jordan Blair was invaluable in fielding media.
  • The media spotlight shifted at about 10:30 a.m. to a breaking news story at the Roseville Galleria, a 1 million square foot shopping mall.  A mentally ill 23-year-old started a fire that ended up causing major damage; that story dominated into the evening.  RCFB’s story was off the media radar.
  • Since RCFB’s computer servers are housed off-site, the agency’s website and email stayed operational.  Electronic communications has turned out to be an absolutely critical capability.
  • The PR/ad agency sprang into action, creating a “rebuild” brand and updating the website with critical updates.  The agency essentially became the disaster command center, in coordination with Board president Susan Timmer.  They also created a media advisory and quickly distributed it.
  • The agency created temporary signage.  That’s important now, as people who count on RCFB come for food, only to learn of the agency’s temporary closure.  Signage will also be critical next week when the temporary facility is operational, thanks to Sutter Medical Center’s incredibly generous offer. (Sutter operates a garage across the street that has an unleased retail space they are going to allow RCFB to use.)
  • The agency set up Google Voice to transcribe RCFB voice mails for easy retrieval (converts voice into written/text messages)
  • It solicited AT&T for a new phone system.  RCFB had replaced its system only last summer.  They’re also reaching out to hardware stores for shelving, etc.
  • It pitched two weekly newspapers to donate advertising space as a means of getting the word out regarding the agency’s most critical needs.
  • They pitched a reality TV show about the possibility of rebuilding the food bank as a feature.  I shouldn’t name names here.

More soon…  Watch the website and Facebook page.  Almost 100 fans have joined Facebook since yesterday.  Check out the messages unfolding there:  one school is giving kids a “free dress” day (no dress code) for bringing in food items; one guy is telling friends to donate to RCFB instead of giving him birthday gifts.

Besides supporting RCFB, I’ll be looking for lessons all agencies can take away from this disaster.

Sarah Nett, 78, is one of many seniors who depend on RCFB/photo credit Randy Pench, Sac Bee


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  1. Pingback: Not Wicked Good…River City Food Bank Destroyed By Fire | Noteworthy Experts