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Kirkland community comes together to help Oso mudslide victims
Touched by the devastation and travesty of the recent Oso mudslide, Kirkland residents and businesses are searching for ways they can help amidst the chaos.
More than 20 people confirmed dead and 20 additional missing people were struck by a mile-wide mudslide on March 22. The search for the missing continues weeks after the landslide hit a small northwestern city called Oso, just west of Darrington, Wash.
Jim Schoeggle, a longtime city and Kirkland Fire Department volunteer, has been back and forth from the site with his search dog group for nearly a week.
“On Saturday, they turned us around because the slope was still unstable,” Schoeggle said. “We didn’t get up there until [last] Tuesday.”
Schoeggle only replied “partially” when asked if he or his team helped to recover any of the victims, adding that he can’t talk about operational details at this time.
“Lots of wrecked houses, piles of debris and trees,” he said about the mudslide site. “The locals from the community, from Oso, people directly affected and the nearby community, those people are out there with shovels helping to dig up their friends and neighbors. I haven’t seen that before on any of the incidents that I’ve been involved with before.”
As Schoeggle drove back to Kirkland from the mudslide site on Tuesday, he said he saw people gathered at the Burlington Les Schwab with signs for Oso, noting that the outpour of support has been reassuring.
Kirkland resident Robert Marshall visited the Oso site last weekend, when two victims were recovered.
“All work is stopped while they are transported to the landing zone for the helicopter and work is not resumed until it is flown away,” Marshall said, adding that he and others found some mementos. “The site is extremely overwhelming. The pictures you see are not even close to what it actually is. It is massive.”
Marshall also set up www.gofundme.com/ososlidevictims to help the Harris family find their 13-year-old son, who is still missing.
“I wanted to go help physically but knew that they would not accept non-Darrington residents to go search,” said Marshall before he was allowed to help last weekend. “I set it up for Denver Harris because my niece goes to school with him. As far as I know, he is still one of the missing/unaccounted for from the slide.”
According to the Seattle Times, Harris was home alone that Saturday morning the landslide struck.
Marshall said Harris and his niece attended Darrington Middle School together. Her mom, Tina Clark, who is Marshall’s roommate and went to school with Harris’s mother, has been actively visiting Darrington to help in any way she can, Marshall continued.
Clark, who is also a Kirkland resident, grew up in Darrington and was on the Darrington Fire Department.
She was not available for immediate comment.
Marshall hopes to get $10,000 donated to the Harris family and has received $940 so far.
“Most of the donations I have received on the page are from family and friends of mine,” Marshall said, who works at Clarks Wheel Alignment in Totem Lake. “I know people are hesitant to give donations to random people and not a big name like Red Cross or anything.”
Marshall said it’s unlikely he’ll wait to hit his fundraising goal before he delivers the funds to the Harris family but hopes it’s reached because “a lot of families up there don’t have much at all.”
“It is amazing how much the communities come together after a tragedy like this,” he said. “It’s crazy that it takes this but it does.”
Marshall said his mother, aunt and cousin gathered shovels, boots, gloves, duct tape, socks and some food from local business to be delivered to Oso and Darrington last weekend.
“Nick’s Grill donated a bunch of food,” he said in an email. “Dunn Lumber donated a bunch of goods and gave a huge discount on anything they couldn’t donate.”
Longtime Kirkland volunteer Terri Fletcher has also set up a fundraising site with the goal of $5,000. Her site can be found at www.gofundme.com/7u9x64.
“You feel so bad and you feel helpless for all those people,” she said, adding that she has cousins in Darrington. “I just wanted to show support from Kirkland.”
Fletcher is also hesitant she’ll reach her goal but she continues to get donations, which have totaled $930 as of April 1.
Fletcher said the funds are going to be distributed to where they’re needed the most and not just into a “general fund.”
Aegis Lodge, a Kirkland-based assisted living center, is planning to have a fundraising event for victims of the mudslide on April 19.
“We’re always searching for an opportunity to do something for the community,” said Sandra Cook, marketing director with Aegis Lodge.
After seeing the devastation on the news, Cook called Red Cross and arranged for their pre-planned April auction to become a benefit.
There will be a brunch buffet, which is $18 per adult, $12 for children 12 and older, and free for younger children. Local musician Nick Baker and the Chestnut Montessori School choir will entertain before the silent auction begins.
Cook said they’re suggesting participants make a $50-100 donation to the Red Cross fund.
“We’re setting the goal for $3,000,” she said, adding that they’re already a third of the way there. “It’s a last minute thing but we’re hoping to reach more.”
Aegis of Kirkland, Lynnwood, Kent and the home office in Redmond are also acting as drop-off sites for people who want to donate items the community might need. A spokeswoman with Aegis said the deadline is April 4 for the items to go to Arlington.
Community members can also attend a mudslide fundraiser at Vortex Music and Movies. Darren Compton is preparing the event for April 19-20, Easter Sunday, in honor of the nationwide Record Store Day.
“We would love to get a check to the folks of Oso,” he said. “We’ll have an approved box by Red Cross.”
Compton said the minimum amount they hope to get is $500 but would love anything more.
“We just want to drive up to Darrington and drop off a few hundred dollars where it’s needed,” he said. “We’re just trying to do the right thing.”
Others Kirklanders such as Heidi Kelly and Shirley Wilks have been active forces in collecting search gear and delivering it to people in Arlington and Darrington.
For more information on how to help, visit www.redcross.org/news/article/Red-Cross-Helping-at-Scene-of-Tragic-Mudslide.