Children’s Disaster Services continues Camp Fire response

CDS Volunteer in California
Children play at the Disaster Recovery Center in Chico, California. Photo by Kathy Duncan

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) continues to aid children and families affected by the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in northern California. Two new CDS teams are being deployed this week.

A new team of four volunteers is traveling tomorrow to support a Red Cross “Family Support Center” in a different location from the CDS team that has supported the state’s Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Chico. That first team of eight volunteers deployed Nov. 16 and, after completing about two weeks of service, was replaced this week. Another eight volunteers arrived in Chico on Wednesday and Thursday and are working at the DRC as that part of the response continues.

In related news, a couple with Brethren roots who lost their home in the Camp Fire has been featured by National Public Radio station KQED. “No Time to Rebuild: A Family Says Goodbye to Paradise After 58 Years” tells the story of Arlene and Ellis Harms, ages 89 and 92 respectively, who moved from La Verne to Paradise in 1960. Ellis was a principal of the elementary school in Paradise. He told KQED that the school “was built by WPA [Works Progress Administration] in 1935, and it’s gone. The church that we came to Paradise for as well is gone.” That church was Community Church of the Brethren, where in previous years Arlene played piano and organ. Go to .

CDS also has been featured in the fall 2018 issue of “Action in Education,” an alumni magazine from DePaul University’s College of Education. Find the CDS article on page 4 at .

Camp Fire situation ‘is difficult’

CDS volunteers aid children affected by Hurricane Michael in Panama City Beach, Fla.
CDS volunteers aid children affected by Hurricane Michael in Panama City Beach, Fla. Photo by Kathy Duncan

CDS volunteers in the center at Chico have been serving about 50 children daily, but earlier this week those numbers increased to 65 and 70 children a day, according to Patty Henry, who has been one of the CDS project managers.

“The situation is difficult” for the families displaced by the fire, said Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries. Among current difficulties, many affected families are living in a tent city without services, CDS project managers have reported. Officials are trying to get these families to move closer to the service centers or shelters so they can provide them with more support.

Winter shared stories about two children who survived the fire. One nine-year-old boy told a CDS volunteer about driving through flames to escape, and that he simply closed his eyes and prayed. Another boy, age 11, displayed his anger about the difficult situation through rough play in the CDS childcare center, and defied directions from his caregivers. He told a CDS volunteer that he wished he had died in the fire.

“My goal with this [sharing children’s stories] is to help people understand the intensity for the children, families, and CDS volunteers,” Winter said.

For more information about Children’s Disaster Services go to

How to help

Mail donations to support the CDS response and Brethren Disaster Ministries plans for a long-term recovery response to the Camp Fire to:

Emergency Disaster Fund
Church of the Brethren
1451 Dundee Ave.
Elgin, IL 60120. 
Please note “Camp Fire Response.”

Give online to the CDS response at

To be trained to serve as a CDS volunteer, register for a volunteer training workshop at

Brethren Disaster Ministries is working closely with Pacific Southwest District of the Church of the Brethren to respond to the fire. The district is collecting funds to provide direct support to Paradise Community Church of the Brethren and its pastor Melvin Campbell and his wife, Jane. Mail contributions noted for the “Paradise Fire” to: 
Pacific Southwest District Church of the Brethren
P.O. Box 219
La Verne, CA 91750

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