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Nellely Azpeitia, Skyler Genelly, and Tessa Hughes

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In the early morning on Monday October ninth, flames engulfed miles of the Sonoma and Napa counties. As historic buildings were destroyed and neighborhoods were cleared out, thousands of residents had to evacuate their homes and abandon their belongings in a matter of minutes to save their lives. They fled to various evacuation centers in safe areas, many of which were in Petaluma, seeking refuge from the havoc. Initially sparse in supplies, the centers were quickly flooded with countless donations and volunteers.

   One of the most prominent volunteers has been local and national celebrity baseball star Johnny Gomes, who is known for inscribing his cleats and gloves with “707” to show communtiy pride. Gomes grew up in Petaluma and attended both our school and the Santa Rosa Junior College before being drafted to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2001. Even after making it to the “major league,” Gomes still feels strong ties to his hometown, involving himself in a plethora of other local organizations – from sponsoring local Little League teams and helping with Camp for a Cure to being active with military charities. He discussesdhow he was determined to use his success to aid the community where he grew up.

 “My childhood wasn’t white picket fence, [we] didn’t have a lot of money and needed a lot of help. I always made a pact and a commitment to where if I was ever in a situation to give back: do it,” said Gomes.

   Most Petalumans were in some way affected by the fire, be it through family or friends who lost their houses or through donating their time spare supplies, and extra bedrooms to those in need. Gomes, who had family that were evacuated, decided to create a GoFundMe as part of an immediate relief effort, and he talks about where the money is going.

   “When the fire was raging, I started the GoFundMe. People want something of their own, so my final goal is to get a bunch of money and convert it into gift cards. At the end of the day, [no matter] how much I raise, I just look at it as a plus . . . Whether I raise money to help one family, or whether I raise enough money to help as many as I can, at the end of the day we are “in the green,” said Gomes.

   At the end of the day, Sonoma County has come together to show their strength, as exhibited in their motto “Sonoma Country Strong.” Human Interaction teacher Lynne Moquete comments on her personal definition of this phrase.

  “It’s this place that we live that is filled with amazing people, doing amazing work, supporting each other and working in collaboration . . . that’s what Sonoma County Strong means,” said Moquete.

  If you would like to make a contribution to Gomes’ fundraiser, type this link into your search engine: https://www.gofundme.com/707Relief. To purchase one of his “Strong 707 Together” t-shirts, use this link: https://sosojelly.com/collections/northern-ca-fire-relief-w-jonny-gomes.

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