A Bright Spot in a Challenging Year

By Emily Compton

The Common Good Community Foundation provided a donation to the Quincy High School Honor Band to cover travel expenses to a competition at Chico State University. Photos provided by Colleen Mckoewni

The Dixie Fire started July 13 in the Feather River Canyon and burned for 109 days, carrying thick smoke and a sense of helplessness across the region as the fire continued to grow. The fire burned across five counties—Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta, and Tehama—and three national forests.

It was destructive to the region and devastating to Greenville and Canyon Dam, which lost everything.

The Dixie Fire was the first recorded wildfire to burn across the Sierra Nevada, with smoke from the fire traveling as far east as Utah and Colorado.

It was the largest non-complex wildfire in California’s history. While it has been devastating, it has shown the strength, resilience, and generosity of those who live here.

Plumas County is home to more than 1 million acres of national forest, 1,000 rivers, and 100 lakes. The Dixie Fire almost took it all in addition to the Beckwourth Complex Fire that burned more than 105,000 acres on the other side of Plumas County and into Lassen County, claiming more than 100 homes.

In a time of such devastation, many community members and organizations stepped up and supported in whatever way they could. One such organization is The Common Good Community Foundation.

The foundation was started in 2012 by Colleen McKeown. Colleen had been involved with other Plumas County nonprofit organizations and saw so many organizations and community groups with important missions struggling to raise funds in the small, rural county.

The Plumas Heartsafe Community Group received a donation from the Common Good Community Foundation to buy defibrillators.

She decided to start her own foundation that could help fund the other nonprofits around the area.

The foundation now has a board of directors comprised of Colleen, president; Jeanne Fagliano, treasurer; Carol Snow, secretary; and Susan Christensen.

The 501(c)(3) organization supports activities around Plumas County with a focus on, but not limited to, the arts, education, public lectures, senior services, health care, and animal welfare.

Colleen grew up in Reno and discovered Plumas County in the early 1970s when her love of hiking and backpacking brought her to the area. She loved it so much she moved to Plumas County and settled in Johnsville in 1978.

To date, the foundation has raised more than $230,000 for its Dixie Fire Relief Fund. Donations ranged from $3 to $40,000.

“Raising funds wasn’t a huge hurdle thanks to the generosity of our donors,” Colleen says. “Once the fire fund was established, donations came in so quickly it was overwhelming.”

Early in the effort, the foundation pledged to match 100% of all donations, with all the donations going directly to Dixie Fire victims and relief efforts.

“The board of directors has been humbled and amazed by the generosity of our donors,” Colleen says. “ We continue to work diligently to expend the donations wisely to assist and support those impacted by the devastation of the Dixie Fire.”

Donations were distributed to various local organizations and some out-of-the-area organizations that provided support to Plumas County organizations during the Dixie Fire, specifically groups that aided with animal and livestock evacuation, and care while local facilities were under evacuation orders.

The largest local donations went to Plumas Crisis Intervention & Resource Center and Plumas Rural Services. Plumas Crisis Intervention & Resource Center provided critical services. Plumas Rural Services gave away $500 gift cards to 180 households and provided trauma counseling services to fire victims.

The Common Good Foundation gave Sierra Valley Art & Ag Trail seed money to get the project off the ground.

Smaller disbursements went to the following organizations: Plumas Unified School District’s Dixie Fire Employee Relief Fund, Plumas County Search & Rescue, Plumas County Fire Safe Council, Greenville Dixie Fire Resource Center, Plumas Charter School, and High Sierra Animal Rescue.

Most recently, the foundation donated $25,000 to the Sierra Institute’s Indian Valley Strong Fund. The money will be used to support rebuilding homes and businesses lost to the fire and meeting other critical needs of those community members. The Common Good Community Foundation will determine this spring where the rest of the Dixie Fire Relief funds will be donated.

The foundation is currently focusing on Dixie Fire relief, but will begin accepting new grant applications in May 2022. If your organization is interested in applying for funds from The Common Good Community Foundation, you can find the application on its website, www.commongoodplumas.org.

Donors have many ways to give, and there are many options for how donations can be used, foundation including endowment funds, donor-advised funds, family funds, field of interest funds, and scholarship funds.

Prior to the Dixie Fire Relief Fund, the foundation had donated more than $180,000 to organizations across Plumas County.

The Common Good Foundation relies on its donors to support local community organizations. If you want to donate, visit the website to give online, or mail checks payable to The Common Good Community Foundation to 364 Johnsville Road, Blairsden, CA 96103.