When everything is lost, where do you even begin to start to replace what mattered most? This is the big question that victims of the Camp Fire in Paradise and other California fire survivors are asking themselves. While family heirlooms, childhood crafts, and other priceless items can’t be replaced, other favorite pieces can be with a little time and effort.
Our Call Center Manager, Laura, lost her family home in Paradise and is now helping her parents to rebuild what was lost. She has been busy reaching out to over 80 companies asking for a bit of generosity to replace items such as her dad’s barbecue, safe, and other valuable pieces. Some businesses have been amazing and have given the items for free or asked for just the cost of shipping while others have declined to even honor their warranties. (And just so you know, this post has two motives: 1) to advise you on how to ask companies for help and 2) to inform you of businesses who are compassionate and generous so we can continue to support them!)
Here are some of Laura’s tips for contacting companies so hopefully you can start to rebuild your life, too.
1. Focus on companies that are in the U.S.
Companies outside the U.S. probably haven’t had the news coverage that we have here and most likely don’t know or understand the devastation that was caused. Focus on replacing products that are Made in the U.S.A. It’s even better if the company is in California because they will certainly be more sympathetic.
Laura’s dad, Chris, was in law enforcement and last Christmas she had a custom-made metal American flag made for him. This was one of his most prized possessions and was destroyed in the fire. Laura reached out to Second to None Fabrication and they sent her a new sign (she just had to pay for the shipping). They also sent a heartfelt note that said, “I am so sorry to hear about your parents home and the complete loss that your family is going through. Unfortunately we know too many people going through the same tragedy as you right now with having made so many new friends through our business that are located in Cali.”
2. Ask for a replacement item or a discount
Some people may think that your insurance is going to cut you a fat check to purchase everything you need, but usually they will cover only 50 – 75% of the initial costs, so a discount or free item is going to be incredibly appreciated. It may be helpful to mention that you have insurance, but it only covers a fraction of your losses. Also, a discount is better than nothing. We want to support these businesses who are willing to do what they can, not cause financial stress. Requesting a discount can help you to get what you need while also providing a way for the company to help without causes financial strain.
3. Explain the importance of the item in your letter
For Laura’s family, Sunday night barbecues were the highlight of the week. Her dad, Chris, was proud of his skills and he even created a designated spot with pavers to house his grill. Laura reached out to Weber and explained “every Sunday night in our family means barbecue, beer and football… family dinners revolve around BBQ.” Guess what happened? They offered Chris a 22” model for free. Maybe the item isn’t the exact one that you requested, but this was so generous on the part of Weber and it was a huge step in getting life back to normal for Chris.
4. Give as much information about the original product as you can.
A company is more likely to replace the item if you have proof of ownership and that you were personally affected by the fire (and not a scammer). Here is a great sample that Laura wrote:
My dad owned two toolboxes from Snap On and he has always been a Mr. Fix It type of guy. I wanted to reach out, because we just lost our family home in Paradise, CA to the Camp Fire and now his toolboxes and tools are destroyed. The toolboxes themselves are brittle and can not be fixed and all the tools inside are melted together.
I wanted to see if there was any way I could get a discount to re order him at least one of the toolboxes. Unfortunately, their insurance is going to take months, maybe even years to pay out and I can’t afford to replace the toolboxes and tools myself at full price. If you could place just let me know I would really appreciate it.
I have attached photos of the toolboxes that I believe he had. I also attached before and after photos of our home in Paradise. You can see the toolboxes standing right in the middle of the ashes behind the garage door in the after photo.
Physically everyone made it out okay, but what remains of the place we all called home is devastating. I would really appreciate anything you can do to help out my family. Thank you so much in advance for your time.
Out of the 80+ companies that Laura has contacted, only four have responded. If you need a barbecue or custom made sign, please support Weber barbecues and Second to None Fabrication. These companies were awesome and we would love to see them rewarded for their generosity.
Those on Santa’s Naughty List? Snap-on Tools, KA_BAR knives, and Sentry Safe. On Sentry Safe’s website, they even state that, “Should your safe go through a fire, SentrySafe will send a replacement safe free of charge, so the things that matter most are protected for generations to come.” Not only would the above companies not replace the items, but they also refused to offer a discount.
It’s going to take time to contact businesses, but it may be worth the effort to start getting your life back together. We also hope that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the compassion and kindness you’ll find.