Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

Many local people and businesses have stepped forward to help evacuees of the Rim Fire.

American Red Cross volunteers, who set up the Rim Fire evacuation center at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora, have been very impressed - and had their lives and the lives of the evacuees made easier - by the compassionate acts.

Restaurants have prepared food for evacuees several days in a row for Red Cross volunteers and evacuees. They include Banny's Restaurant and Bar at Mountain Springs, El Jardin in Sonora, Cover's Apple Ranch in Tuolumne, The Standard Pour and Columbia Kate's Teahouse.

Thursday night, Applebee's in Sonora donated dinner, and Friday morning McDonald's supplied breakfast while Starbucks donated coffee.

Cost-U-Less has donated fruit and supplies, Lowe's donated a pallet of water, Save Mart has donated boxed lunches and Safeway donated a pallet of water and lunches to firefighters.

Sonora Used Books donated books, and numerous Lions Club members in the Mother Lode have volunteered to organize, cook and serve meals.

The Columbia City Hotel, Gunn House Hotel and Best Western Sonora Oaks Hotel all have donated either towels or bed linens.

The Tuolumne CountyArts Alliance began organizing an art and craft supply drive for evacuated children. To donate art supplies, call the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance at 532-2787.

The Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse has stepped up for horse owners, with members offering trailers for transporting horses from fire-threatened areas to the posse grounds in Jamestown. Those in need of horse-pickup can call Sheriff's Posse Captain Ron Stearns at 532-8269 or 559-1323.

Marble Quarry RV Park and 49er RV Park are offering trailer spaces at half price for evacuees.

The Best Western Sonora Oaks Hotel is offering discounts on rooms.

Numerous other donations have been made by locals - too many to comprehensively list.

"Since the shelter opened, there has been a steady flow of community members coming by offering to help," said Jordan Scott, of the American Red Cross.

Perhaps the biggest congregation of evacuees is at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds.

To park a trailer and use the facilities provided by the American Red Cross is free.

Some citizens have called in concern and confusion about paying for live-in trailer services at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora, however. To use full trailer utilities, namely water, electricity and sewer hookups, anyone at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds - including evacuees - must still pay a fee of $30 per day.

Don Bean, Mother Lode Fair manager, explained this was part of the arrangement between the fairgrounds and the Red Cross to make up for high overhead costs for volunteering use of the fairground facilities and space for the evacuation center.

The Red Cross is now renting all the buildings, but not all of the space in the fairgrounds. Space will be made available if needed, however.

The fairgrounds will do "whatever it takes," to provide shelter for evacuees, he said.

Individuals can still help.

The most effective and simple way to help, according to the Red Cross, is to bring in or mail cash donations to the Sonora branch of the American Red Cross office at 13669 Mono Way, Sonora, CA 95370.

The Red Cross gets supplies at a discount, so cash goes further, a volunteer explained.

The evacuation center may also need volunteers. Would-be volunteers should call the office at 533-1513. They will do an immediate background check, and volunteering can be scheduled around work hours.

Snack foods can also be accepted. Preferences are for easily handed out snack foods like crackers, sugar-free foods for diabetics, non-perishables like peanut butter and jelly and microwavable foods. However, the facility does not have a freezer, so foods that require freezing cannot be accepted.