They lined up single file — cars, trucks, SUVs, a U-haul trailer and all other manner of vehicle — in the parking lot of the vacant Kmart in Roseburg on Saturday to bring items for those who had been displaced by the wildfires.
The impromptu donation drive and giveaway was organized by Rick Merlino, owner of the Scoreboard Sports Bar in Roseburg, and a group of friends. On Friday, Merlino and company handed out donated items to all comers and served about 250 meals of tacos and smoked chicken, he said.
He had hoped to catch up on some sleep Saturday morning, but that wasn’t happening.
“This morning I stayed in the trailer, and people were knocking on the door at 7 a.m. to make a donation,” Merlino said. “It’s been like this all day. It’s been crazy.”
The list of donated items was seemingly endless: bottled water toiletries, clothes, shoes, bread, rolls, hygene products, bags of dog food, crackers, cookies, dish soap, blankets, comforters, furniture, board games, baby food, potato chips, canned food, packages of noodle soup, donuts, Gatorade, sunflower seeds, hot fries, black tea, protein bars, deodorant, toothpaste, and much more.
A host of area farmers delivered all manner of produce, including apples, pears, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and melons.
A number of businesses chipped in, Merlino said. The Melrose Country Store gave $500 to help buy food, including barbecue meat that was cooked by Workman’s Bar & Smokehouse in Winston. The Winchester Pub & Grill and Black-N-Bleu Bistro in Roseburg also pitched in, he said.
“There’s been so many people dripping off stuff you can’t even thank them all,” Merlino said. “It’s been busy as hell and it’s not slowing down.”
Toni Rose heard about it on the radio and decided she needed to pitch in. She loaded up her SUV with brown shopping bags filled mostly men’s clothes – jeans, shirts, even a pair of boots — and dropped them off Saturday.
“I just wanted to help out. There are so many people who need it now,” said Rose, who lives in Roseburg. “These are tough times, but I’m glad people are pitching in to help.
A half dozen long banquet tables with about 50 chairs were set up to accommodate those who wanted a hot meal — fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and a roll were served in the early afternoon — but that wasn’t enough for the second wave of people who came later. Several more tables and chairs were set up for them. They got tri-tip steak and all the fixings.
With her crutches next to her, Tamy Wafford sat on a folding chair next to Stan Miller, someone she had never met before. A few minutes later, her eyes were closed as Miller held her hand while praying intently. When he was done, she stood up while balancing with her crutches. Tears of joy and a big smile were visible on her face.
“I think God puts people in our lives for a reason,” Wafford said.
Miller’s offer to pray with Wafford could not have come at a better time. Wafford was one of the many people forced to flee Idleyld Park because of the Archie Creek Fire. She also needs to use crutches because of torn cartilage in her knee.
If that wasn’t enough, Wafford found out two months ago that she has stage 4 lung cancer.
“It’s been one thing after another,” Wafford said.
Not to worry, she said. Because she has faith.
“I know God will see me through this,” Wafford said.
Debbie Lopez-Stitt didn't let her own hard-luck story from reaching out to victims of the Archie Creek Fire. It was a year ago when her home caught on fire because of an electrical issue.
And she still has not been able to return home, she said.
"All we want to do right now, even though we are not back in our own home is help and see if we can donate tents to anybody who needs them," she said.
As for Merlino and his friends, they plan to take the day off from philanthropic work, maybe to do a little fishing, but will be back at it Monday somewhere. Check Scoreboard’s Facebook page for details, he said.
“We’re exhausted,” he said. “It’s been nuts.”