On Friday, May 28th, Hope City officially finished their work rebuilding homes for the Valley Fire survivors, and hosted an open house to celebrate the occasion. For all of the work they’ve done for Lake County residents, they have been selected as the Middletown Days Grand Marshal for the 60th Annual Middletown Days Parade.
I asked Kevin Cox, CEO and founder of Hope City how he got started with disaster recovery. He said that it began with crisis counceling and that they quickly realized there were other needs that were not being met. He decided to jump in where they were most needed, rebuilding, and Hope City immediately became a model program with FEMA. Cox also ended up writing many of the disaster materials that FEMA uses today.
To date, they have assisted 26,000 families in getting back into their homes. They seek out grants wherever possible to fund their work. One of the largest single donations to Hope City for the Valley Fire rebuild came from Guenoc Developer Yiming Xu in the amount of one million dollars. That donation and the donations from Lake County Rising helped to ensure there were no costs to the homeowners for the work done by Hope City.
Hope City has been working in Pardise, Butte, Mendocino, Sonoma, Shasta, and also helping out in Napa. Currently they are opening a Hope City in Siskiyou County. With 52 wildfires in the last 5 years it’s becoming harder and harder to find new donors.
Hope City makes it a point to circulate the donations in the same communities in which they are building. They do this by purchasing their lumber and building materials locally. They also feed their volunteers by doing their grocery shopping locally.
Hope City has just 12 employees. Cox’s wife, Valarie, is the Administrative Assistant; handles community outreach, media, and grant writing; and is also a Disaster Case Manager. The organization relies heavily on volunteers from faith based organizations all over North America. The volunteers donate their time, one week at a time, to come and help people “rebuild their homes and their lives.” Cox makes sure the volunteers have beds, not cots. They make sure to provide good meals and entertainment when the volunteers aren’t working. “They have all the materials they need and all the tools are in great working condition.” Cox says that, “the focus is on the families and restoration. And, when they take care of the volunteers, productivity goes up in the field.”
Prior to the Valley Fire, Cox had been trying to get his wife to move to California, but she didn’t really want to go. She told him “If God calls we’ll go.” Meanwhile, Cox was going through a lot of health problems and thought perhaps he was done in the disater field. Six weeks later they got the Valley Fire call.
The were contacted by churces in Santa Rosa and Cox arived in Middletown a few days after the Valley Fire started. He eventually worked out a deal with the Middletown Central Park Association. In exchange for allowing the volunteers to utilze the property during the years-long rebuild, their building (also the site of the old Middletown Senior Center) was torn down and a home base dormitory was built by Hope City. Last Friday, Hope City turned over the keys just in time for the 60th Anual Middletown Days celebration.
While Cox, who grew up in Sonoma, is finding it hard to say goodbye, he is looking foward to getting back to Indiana to see his graddaughter with whom he and his wife Facetime daily.
Middletown Central Park Association would like to thank Hope City for the difference they’ve made in the lives of Lake County residents over the past 5 ½ years. You can show your appreciation on Saturday, June 19th at 10:00 as they head up the Middletown Day’s Parade, and at the celebration that immediately follows at the Middletown Central Park stage where they will be presented with a commemorative plaque.