The Rebuilding Greenville Resource Center inside the Crescent Hotel in Crescent Mills opens a much needed computer lab this past weekend for all who need it. Photo submitted

Greenville Rising: Week of Oct. 11

     This week we didn’t get many emails or phone calls about new stuff happening for the rebuilding of Greenville. Please send us your tips and stories regarding rebuilding.

     The Rebuilding Greenville Resource Center needs volunteers to take shifts to keep open. The center is located in and around the Crescent Hotel (follow the arrows). It’s locally run and operated. The organizer for the center, Lara, put out this call:

     “Local volunteers, we have a regular work schedule but we don’t have enough regular volunteers to fill shifts. There are a few volunteers that are working well over a 40-hour week because they want to keep the doors open for fire survivors. If you can take even one or two shifts each week it would help give our diehard volunteers a much needed break.” Message or text Lara at (907) 242-4426 if you can consistently fill any of these shifts and let her know what days you can work. There are all day shifts (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), opening shifts (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.), closing shifts (12 noon to 5 p.m.), and evening shifts, (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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     The center is also requesting that people no longer donate used items—clothing in particular as they are running out of room for them. They are switching from providing summer to winter clothes and have those available. On their Facebook page the center has posted a ‘needs list’ for items that are in need right now.

     Non-perishable food items, frozen meats, pet food, dairy are welcome as are cleaning supplies (mops, brushes, cleaners of all kinds, laundry detergent, etc.). As it is turning cold, all things related to keeping people warm are needed: generators, space heaters, gas cans, skirding to wrap pipes, propane, batteries, ice chests, steps for RVs for the elderly, storage tubs, and grab bars for showers.

     The center now has the Internet and laptops available for people in Indian Valley who need it complete with tabs fixed on the desktop for frequently needed websites such as FEMA, the county website, and other recover websites. The new ‘computer lab’ is in need of mousepads. Indian Valley computer expert Julian Wells helped put together the lap inside the Crescent Hotel area of the Resource Center. The center thanked Lulu Paradise, Gabrial Walsh, Denise Piper, Sue Weber, and Julian Wells for each of their parts in making the computer lab happen. The center could use” a few computer savvy volunteers” to help people get online and to the recovery websites and forms they need.

     Remember, if you have anything you want to publicize for the Indian Valley rebuilding efforts, please send items to [email protected].

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     The rest of the column this week is an editorial. So many of us have odd living arrangements right now due to the Dixie Fire. It’s completely exhausting not to have your own space to do all your own things. As I write this, I’m still living in a tiny house on my mom’s property but putting in a cleanout proved to be expensive especially considering that we are supposed to be up on our own property soon—possibly by November—yay! But the two friends and family members we’d arranged to be able to shower, etc. came down with COVID, which put our steady craziness in a further tailspin. Where to go…to go? As of tomorrow, I’ll have a nearly month long housesitting gig in Quincy that will help with that, but I recognize even in that that I am one of the lucky ones who know enough people to acquire a temporary space.

     It was cold in the tiny house this morning and I thought of people who might still be camping. This is no way to live and the whole process of not having your own complete place with a functioning kitchen and bathroom keeps a person in a constant state of needing to know what they are doing next. There’s no room for errors or extras.

     I ate out every day for the last two weeks and keep it to one meal a day and some fruit and snacks to offset. Eating is expensive. Figuring out where you are going to eat and what you are going to eat to both be nutritious and keep costs down and away from people so you don’t catch COVID is a full-time job.

     My other full-time job that I’m sharing with my husband is an immensely detailed insurance claim form that wants to know the make and serial number of items bought years ago. Do I save receipts? Yes. Where are they? In an office reduced to ash in downtown Greenville. My mind comes up with all sorts of fantasies for the insurance claim questions. They wanted me to list the title and author of 954 books in my office. Thanks to my Amazon account I could produce receipts for 227 of them. But how do you quantify the family bible annotated with your illiterate Ozark great grandfather’s misspelled musings? The shoebox in the bottom drawer of a mid-century cabinet housing all the letters your Bronx born Scottish grandmother ever sent you? Or the book on the Mexican Revolution that your Mexican grandparents gave you when you started graduate school –the only thing you ever had with both their signatures? Or the first edition Edna St. Vincent Millay book your mother gave you on your sixteenth birthday inscribed to you, with the page before inscribed to her from a friend who died long ago, inscribed to him, etc.?

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     I am not a cheerleader by nature. I had moments this week of thinking I was never going to finish the claim form—somehow I did. If you haven’t finished yours yet, keep going, you can make it! Goooo Greenville! (I’m jumping up and down for you with invisible pom poms).

     People are always asking what they can do to help us Greenville residents; I have a hard time answering that question usually. For starters, I lost an office and a thousand trees on a property that was being built but is now months behind where we thought we’d be. That’s lucky. Most people are empathetic when I can’t produce the title of my car, or my marriage license, or anything else of societal value that was in the top drawer of my filing cabinet that’s now a rusting cavernous void. But I think what I need most from people—and I’m betting others do as well—is time to process our new reality a little more. The initial shock is over; we are no longer frontpage news. That’s fine. I didn’t like the exploitative nature of people unfamiliar with the area grandstanding their celebrity on our grave.

     But I need time to process all the trauma. I’m not done. I need to be able to drive from Greenville to Quincy without crying or anger or sorrow but without going numb at the same time (this morning I swore ancient curses at Caltrans in my head when I saw a perfectly good green tree being felled. Really? You guys are going to take every last tree that didn’t burn?). I need time to decide whether my family ups and leaves completely next summer and sells off the completed property with the 1000 burned out trees (I can’t fathom anyone else wanting it—its major selling point is it probably won’t burn again for decades).  Maybe it’s the Taurean in me: feet firmly on the ground and stubborn, I will make my decisions in my own time.

     I look to places like the Greenville Rebuilding Resource Center in Crescent Mills, not because I need anything in particular—I certainly don’t have any place to put anything, and my Prius is dangerously close to looking like a clown car—but because it offers the best humanity has to offer: kindness and empathy and neighbors helping neighbors. Help them out when you get a chance. Meanwhile, I’m going to stare at this wall over here and try to take my time as I wonder, where and what I’m going to eat today, grateful at least to know that tomorrow, I’ll have a borrowed kitchen to finally make meals again. I’ll whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Then I’ll make something complicated, nutritious, something that takes a good deal of time.

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Meg Upton plans to make a huge batch of her special chocolate chip cookies the moment she has access to her own kitchen again. Photo by Meg Upton