Now more than two months after the Woolsey Fire, some local families are still struggling to recover. To that end, an organization called “Malibu Love” has geared its website to help with their “Adopt-a-Family” program. The program was the brainchild of local homemaker and mom Tahia Hocking.
The “Malibu Love” group—not affiliated with similarly named “One Love Malibu”—formed in November with the goal of “bringing the Malibu community together after the Woolsey Fire.” It began as a website listing all of the resources and information available to those affected by the fire—things like power restoration, mail pick-up, financial assistance, events, places to get free clothing and returning home safely after a fire. After Hocking discovered the site, she reached out to its founders to broaden its mission.
“After the fire, so many people wanted to help and there were so many fundraisers and so many fire victims with their own gofundme sites that I thought, ‘What if there was one place where all these different families could post their own stories—a unified space?” Hocking described in an interview with The Malibu Times. “I’d been sent ‘Malibu Love’ by a friend, and got the idea to use their site as a vehicle to plug in the families and their stories.”
The website’s founder, Kelly Wirht, a web designer who grew up in Malibu, worked closely with Hocking to get the online “Adopt-a-Family” program set up on the Malibu Love website. “There are 36 families online right now, but many more are in the process of submitting their information. It’s all word of mouth,” Hocking wrote.
The only requirement for a family to sign up is that they must have lost their home in the Woolsey Fire. Families are vetted by providing a FEMA claim number, pictures of their damaged property and a cross check of addresses with the City of Malibu website listing damaged/total loss properties.
“The thing we’re dealing with right now is how to keep the community from forgetting about these families,” she continued. “So many of these people still need help and I want to try to continue sharing their stories.”
The group got a huge boost on New Year’s Eve, when Malibu celebrity Cher, being interviewed on national television, was asked about fundraising for firefighters and fire victims in California.
“I’m especially loving this organization called Malibu Love,” Cher said, “They’re doing fabulous things. There’s so much to be done and [many] good organizations, but that’s just my special favorite.”
Hocking expressed the idea that many of the worst-affected families are becoming frustrated after receiving very little assistance over the past two months.
“They see millions of dollars being donated at various fundraisers for fire victims, yet most of these families haven’t gotten anything. It’s disheartening to them,” she said in a phone interview.
Hocking points out that “Adopt-a-Family” is different because it “cuts out the middle-man” and lets people with something to give—items as well as money—connect directly online with families needing the help. Donors can adopt as many families as they want, and families can be adopted by multiple donors.
At this time, there’s no time limit set for the website or the families needing assistance. Anyone wishing to sign up as a family or anyone interested in helping them can go to: malibulove.org/families-in-need/
Here are profiles of two of the families needing to be “adopted” who have given permission for their stories to be shared here:
Christine Carter Conway has lived in Malibu for many years, been on the boards of the Adamson House and Malibu Community Labor Exchange, produces the “Malibu Minute,” and is a single mother raising two teenagers. A freelance TV broadcast journalist by trade, she’s contributed a number of stories to local television newscasts. She lost all of her photographic equipment in the fire, along with her only car. “Everything is gone, you don’t know where to start,” she said in a phone interview. Carter is basically out of work until she can obtain a minimum of equipment, including cameras, mics and reflectors. Although she lost over $20,000 in equipment in the fire, she needs a minimum of $8,000 to buy enough to get working again, and still doesn’t have a car.
The Smith Family consists of Brett, a state lifeguard of 25 years who was born and raised in Malibu; wife Olivia, who was also raised in Malibu; and their 18-month-old son, Greyson. The family had to evacuate their home in the middle of the night during the Woolsey Fire, taking only some important documents and the clothes on their backs. They lost their house and all of their belongings.
These families and many more are seeking help through Malibu Love.