The fire that erupted late Saturday night has devastated the Santa Rosa community. So far, about 15 people are reported to have died as a result of this raging fire, according to Sawait Hezchias-Seyoum.

By Diane Peterson (The Press Democrat) |

SANTA ROSA, Cal.―The close-knit Eritrean and Ethiopian community of Santa Rosa gathered at Roseland Elementary School Sunday to offer encouragement and support to 10 of their families who lost homes in the October wildfires.

About 200 guests came together to break bread — the spongy injera and sweet himvasha bread — and share a traditional feast of beef stew and vegetables at a luncheon hosted by the Bay Area’s Women 4 Humanity Now, which supports women and children in times of need.

The “Meal to Heal” luncheon was the brainchild of Women 4 Humanity Now founder Lia Berhane of Kensington and Sawait Hezchias-Seyoum of Sacramento, who started a GoFundMe account for the fire victims after her sister and brother-in-law lost their Coffey Park home.

Her mother, Tebeltz Bein, nearly lost her home in Coffey Park as well. Although it survived, looters made off with Bein’s laptop, TV and jewelry.

Donate to Santa Rosa Eritreans Fire Relief on GoFundMe

“There’s been a lot of smoke and dust,” said Bein, who cooked for the luncheon. “But my home is still there.”

Sawait Hezchias-Seyoum, who was staying at her mother’s house in Coffey Park the night of the fire and witnessed the devastation, hoped to raise $20,000 when she started the GoFundMe account, but she easily exceeded that goal by raising $25,000.

“We wanted to gather everyone and express our thanks for life, family and friends,” said Hezchias-Seyoum, who handed out checks for $2,300 to each fire victim family at the luncheon.

Along with Santa Rosa firefighters, Santa Rosa City Councilman Ernesto Olivares also attended the luncheon. He knows the community from attending past Thanksgiving dinners at a northwest Santa Rosa apartment complex where many of them live.

Continue reading this story at The Press Democrat
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