CLIF Second Responder Fund Helps Disaster-Stricken Communities

Rise from the Ashes and Rebuild for the Future

On a windy June 2020 morning in Chico, Calif., local officials grabbed shovels and broke ground on a new, 25,000-square-foot Butte Humane Society facility. It was an emotional moment not just for the historic animal welfare nonprofit, but for all of Butte County, which is still trying to recover from the ravages of the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.

Since its founding in 1911, the Butte Humane Society has never had a permanent home. It’s bounced around in leased spaces; today it’s spread over three buildings in Chico. Some of the buildings are old and need rehab. Space is cramped. As the Camp Fire showed, the society’s physical limitations make it ill-equipped to handle thousands of displaced and injured animals from miles around during major disasters such as wildfires, which are becoming more frequent and ferocious in California.

So, to break ground on a big new, owned facility was like a fairy tale. “This is a long time coming—109 years,” said Katrina Woodcox, the society’s executive director. “Most importantly, it’s a long time coming for our animals.”

The society’s new facility is made possible in part by Clif Bar & Company and our consumers (thank you!). Butte Humane Society is the first recipient ($1.5 million) of the CLIF® Second Responder Fund, an ongoing commitment we announced in 2019 to help communities recover from natural disasters. The fund is financed by 100 percent of all net profits from the sale of CLIF BAR® Sierra Trail Mix flavor energy bars.

In any natural disaster, once first responders like firefighters complete their brave work, second responders continue rebuilding a disaster-stricken community. Clif Bar has a long history of post-disaster work in communities, often serving as a second responder by sending volunteers, financial support, and food. As it’s doing in Butte County, the CLIF Second Responder Fund will support some of the unmet needs that remain once a disaster subsides.

After the dust settles and camera crews leave, disaster-stricken communities “are still desperate for help,” noted Gary Erickson, Clif Bar Founder, Owner, Board Member. “The CLIF Second Responder Fund will help communities in our own backyard and other communities around the country for years to come.”

Fire and the Damage Done

The morning of the Camp Fire began as a lovely fall day. By noon, the sky over Chico had turned black. Just a few miles away, fire roared through the towns of Pulga and Paradise. In all, the Camp Fire killed 86 people, destroyed 18,000 buildings, left 30,000 people homeless, and caused approximately $16.5 billion in damage, burning an area roughly the size of Chicago. Though the fire spared Chico, 20,000 people in the region descended on the city, virtually overnight. Most remain there today.

It’s estimated the fire impacted more than 20,000 animals, which either died, fled or left with their owners.

The Butte Humane Society sees about 3,500 animals a year, mostly cats and dogs, providing low-cost veterinary services and pet owner education to a large low-income population. When the Camp Fire broke out, the society was quickly overwhelmed, unable to handle the incoming rush of animals.

“Though I didn’t have a lot of experience in treating burned pets, that was the way I knew we could help,” said Mariana Turner, the society’s managing—and lone—veterinarian. “On Tuesday (five days after the fire started), we received 18 burned cats. We had to pull in a lot of volunteers pretty much around the clock, seven days a week, to provide care. We couldn’t do it with our tiny little staff.”

The society also set up a pet food pantry, distributed pet medications and tried to help people locate their pets. Though it valiantly provided free veterinary care to hundreds of animals and distributed 750 tons of pet food, litter, and supplies to over 15,000 animals and their displaced owners through 2019, the society saw even more starkly that it needed a new facility. It couldn’t handle the disaster volume. Animals were scattered about town, cared for by various groups. There was no central information clearinghouse.

Inspiration Behind the CLIF Second Responder Fund

Prior to the Camp Fire, the society embarked on an $11 million capital campaign to raise funds for a new facility. Campaign Chairs Ken Grossman and Katie Gonser, married owners of Chico-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., are business acquaintances with Gary Erickson and his wife Kit Crawford, Owner, Board Member. After the wildfire, Ken and Katie organized a national beer brewing campaign to raise money for Butte County communities impacted by the fire.

That approach inspired Gary and Kit to work with others in the company to create the CLIF Second Responder Fund.

Clif Bar’s support motivated others, Katrina said. Donations soon followed from other businesses and organizations. “The confidence Clif Bar had in Butte Humane Society to build something for the future really took our campaign to the next level, for which we’re so grateful.”

New Humane Society Campus to Meet the Needs of an Entire Region

To date, the society has raised $8 million of the $11 million needed for its new facility, slated for completion in summer 2021. The 25,000 square foot main building will include a 6,000-square-foot veterinary clinic, rescue and adoption kennel space, administrative offices, and a humane education and training center. A yard is planned to provide ample space for shelter dogs to exercise, socialize and to help provide positive behavior modification. Phase 2 of the project calls for a community dog park, public dog pool, and pet celebration garden. Phase 3 will construct a barn capable of housing large animals. “We hope there’s never going to be a disaster, but we know there’s going to be,” Katrina acknowledged. “So what we’d like to do with our space is become an evacuation center, a disaster preparedness center, and a centralized information center during a natural disaster, not just for our community and Butte County, but for all of Northern California. We want to be the north state’s animal welfare hub.”

“Clif is a company full of animal lovers,” explained Kit. “Not only are animals amazing companions, they’re family. We are proud to champion this project.”

If you would like to contribute to the BHS fundraising efforts, please visit bhsjourneyhome.com.