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OHSU members meeting the need amid wildfire devastation

Supply drop-off sites open Friday, Sept. 25; online donations matched
burnt out remains of a home following a wildfire, man standing to the right, seen from back, looking over remnants of the home
A family looks over a homestead following the recent wildfire in the Rogue Valley, Sept. 20, 2020. (Photo courtesy Cecilia Giron)

OHSU employees and students are reaching out to colleagues, learners and community members impacted by the wildfires.

The institution came forward with many resources for members, including time away from work, temporary housing, a wildfire hardship fund for families who have been evacuated or displaced, wellness support, among many other initiatives, and individual programs and departments are rallying around individuals who evacuated or took harrowing steps to protect property and animals.

School of Nursing rallies

Six School of Nursing students, five from Ashland and one from Monmouth, lost their homes and personal belongings in the fires. Many other faculty, staff and students had to evacuate.  

School leaders have connected each student with housing assistance, and equipment and supplies to continue their studies. The school and Provost’s Office are developing other mechanisms of support to provide further assistance.

"The fires have caused tremendous loss, and my heart aches for our students and other community members," said School of Nursing Dean Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN.

Campus Associate Dean Joanne Noone, Ph.D., R.N., CNE, NEF, said the OHSU Ashland community is pulling together. "I am amazed at the resiliency of our students, faculty and staff," she said.

Community members can help by donating through the OHSU Foundation, to the School of Nursing Student Emergency Fund. Any contributions made to support impacted students will be matched 50%.

Latinos Unidos mobilizes

The OHSU Latinos Unidos Employee Resource Group, or LUERG, was planning an event for Hispanic Heritage Month -- Sept. 15-Oct. 15 -- when a powerful opportunity to focus their efforts became clear. The group learned from member Leslie Garcia, assistant chief diversity officer, School of Medicine, and co-leader of a statewide Latino leadership organization, of the Rogue Valley communities of Phoenix and Talent that were wiped out by the wildfires in what families described as a matter of minutes.  

Thousands of the residents are Latino families who own small businesses or work in agriculture, landscaping, housecleaning and restaurants. Hispanic Heritage Month is about recognizing and celebrating the broad and deep contributions that Latinos make across the country and in Oregon. By destroying their homes and businesses and blanketing the fields in smoke, the fires impacted all of it. And having had no path to citizenship, many are not eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, assistance.

“People have lost everything that they have worked for decades,” said Rocio Pozo Santa Cruz, coordinator at the Unity Center for Behavioral Health and co-chair of OHSU Latinos Unidos Employee Resource Group. “On a call with different organizations, it was heartbreaking. Many of these essential workers were living below the poverty line before the fires, and there is the barrier of the language and the inability to access information and resources. Many adults and children are traumatized. There was a señora who didn’t have her asthma medication, another one whose husband lost all his work tools and his truck, a group of workers who were dumped at a park by their employer while the fires blazed.”

Leslie Garcia, who has been in touch daily with a local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens that is coordinating efforts on the ground in the Rogue Valley, is moved by the families’ tenacity.

“Many parents spoke of their desire to keep fighting for their children’s futures and keep up with their studies. They said they would continue working and not give up,” Garcia said.

The OHSU Latinos Unidos Employee Resource Group, joined by the OHSU Latino Medical Student Association, is encouraging donations to the League of United Latin American Citizens wildfire relief fund and the MRG Foundation, Rogue Valley Relief Fund. The groups are also collecting socks and undergarments, duffel bags, small suitcases, gently used clothing and gift cards to Lowe’s and Walmart to help rebuild homes and small businesses. Garcia, Pozo Santa Cruz and other volunteers are driving supplies to the Rogue Valley on Saturday, Sept. 26.

“We are joining efforts and supporting each other during these uncertain times,” Rocio Pozo Santa Cruz said. “We want to bring a bit of hope and let these community members know we are not going to forget them.”

Donation information

Community donations can be dropped off on Friday, Sept. 25, 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm. Look for the white and blue balloons at:

Lake Oswego

NE Portland

SE Portland

NW Portland


To arrange for someone to pick up a donation, please inquire with the OHSU Latinos Unidos Employee Resource Group at, or co-chairs Gabriel Flores,, or Rocio Pozo,



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