Volunteers building Red Cross sifters for wildfire victims

Hundreds of volunteers are building sifters for California wildfire victims. (Oct. 25, 2017)

This week, hundreds of volunteers are building thousands of sifters for victims of the California wildfires.

A sifter allows a fire victim to pour the ashes and rubble of their home onto a mesh screen and sort the dirt from any valuables that might have survived the fire, such as a family ring.

The sifter assembly line is organized by the Red Cross and is set up in a FoodLink warehouse in southeast Sacramento. Sign up to volunteer HERE.

Warehouse manager Paul Madigan, a Red Cross volunteer from Las Vegas, said each sifter has "been manufactured with love from the beginning."

He delivered a truckload of sifters to fire victims in Santa Rosa this week.

"We showed them how to use (the sifters). We gave them a cardboard box to put their belongings in after they sifted," Madigan said. "I met some people up there that are really happy to be alive and able to come back to whatever they can find. It's been amazing. It's moving to go up there."

He said people have used the sifters to find jewelry.

"One lady was looking for the urn of her mother, and we gave her extra sifters," he said.

Joe Spaccarelli, a Red Cross volunteer from New York, is acting as deputy site director at this warehouse.

"On average, we've got about 80 to 90 volunteers that come throughout the day in the various different shifts to help us put this all together," he said, gesturing to the assembly line behind him, which was filled with a team from Intel Wednesday afternoon.

He and Madigan both served Red Cross deployments to Texas, in response to Hurricane Harvey, before coming to California for the wildfires. Sandwiched between those two deployments for Madigan, of Vegas, was the mass shooting in his own backyard.

Spaccarelli said he hopes the wildfire victims "know that there are a lot of people who are around the country, who are putting a lot of time and effort to be there with them, to help them take their first steps back to getting their lives together and getting themselves moving in the right direction."

Erin Nartker and her husband brought their 10-year-old and 12-year-old boys out to volunteer Wednesday afternoon, through their church.

"It's good for (the boys) to be a part of it, and it's good for them to see that, you know, there's people in need and maybe if someday we needed it, there'd be people to help us," Nartker said, wiping a tear from her eye. "I just hope it gives (fire victims) courage and strength to make it through."

On each of the sifters, volunteers wrote messages of encouragement.

"Strength. We are with you. Stay strong. You're not alone," Spaccarelli read, walking a row of sifters piled chest-high. "Our hearts are with you. You will rise above this."

"These are people that care about Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma, all these counties," Madigan said, of the volunteers. "They care. That's why this is written."

The sifters, Spaccarelli added, are "going to give (victims) some hope that they can actually go through and try and find something and hopefully do it safely."

The Red Cross started this effort on Saturday and hopes to build 5,000 of these sifters by the end of this weekend, which means there are still volunteers spots open.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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