Wilco Presents Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund with $75,000 Donation

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Customers, employees, vendors and aide organizations all come together to help those in need

“We are proud to be part of the communities we actively serve and are extremely humbled by the efforts of all involved to fight the wildfires," says TJ Colson.

Wilco announced this week an additional $75,000 year-end donation to the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund (SCWRF) to go towards the relief and rebuilding of the Santiam Canyon. The donation is a combination of direct employee and customer donations, along with unused employee vacation time being converted to give to the local non-profit. A hundred percent of the donation will go to directly benefit members within the community, and Wilco’s donation pushes the SCWRF over $2.7 million raised, of their $5 million goal. This donation adds to the $25,000 gift that Wilco also sent the Red Cross in September when the immediate need to help families in the affected towns was at a crisis point.

“Our hope with any cash donation is that it offers immediate relief to those who need it the most. The September wildfires in Oregon added to a historic year of challenges and we want to be part of the rebuilding, growth and renewal of our rural communities,” said TJ Colson, Vice President Wilco Store Operations. “One positive that came out of the tragic fires was seeing our employees, customers and vendors all rally together to help community members and their animals in a time of real need,” he added.

Multiple vendors, like Purina and Nature’s Bedding Products, along with hundreds of Wilco employees stepped up to give of their time, money and products. Wilco employees volunteered at the evacuation sites; including the Oregon State Fairgrounds, Benton County, Clackamas County, Clark County, Washington County, Yamhill County and Linn County Fairgrounds, to name a few. In the first three days of the wildfires, Wilco delivered over $20,000 in donated supplies, including buckets for water, shavings for stall bedding and feed & hay, along with pitchforks and other tools. Wilco delivery trucks from many locations were on the road helping store teams get items to evacuation sites for immediate relief to livestock. This was all taking place while many Wilco staff were evacuating themselves.

A few examples of Wilco employees stepping in to help, was a trio from Newberg’s Wilco Store. Quickly dubbed the “Red Truck Evacuation Brigade” because they all happen to drive red pick-ups (photo attached). Kelly Reneau (Groomer), April Courtney (Administrative) and Dakota Apke (Animal Health) were in their trucks hauling animals and people to safety during the fire evacuations, all while hauling donated supplies to the evacuation sites as well.

A team member from Wilco’s Vancouver store, Kylee Miller, spearheaded relief efforts on her own and quickly raised over $6,000 that was used to purchase supplies to those in need. She would visit barns and evacuation sites regularly before and after her work shifts. While at work she’d keep an eye on customers and anytime she saw someone frantic over supplies would engage the person to learn their situation and see if Wilco could be of help.

Some employee support might have seemed small, or considered part of their job to serve customers, but in times of need made all the difference. One such instance was a note received from a firefighter:

“I wanted to pass along a positive experience I had at Wilco on Tuesday morning about 7:30 AM. I’m a volunteer fire fighter and was on my way to Detroit for the week to work the fire. I had forgotten my suspenders and initially stopped at another store to purchase a pair, but they turned me away because their registers were not online yet. I stopped by the Stayton Wilco to see what they had and was greeted by someone watering plants. I was in my firefighting uniform but didn’t express I was on my way to fight fires. I told her I needed a pair of suspenders and she went back into the store and came back out with two different sizes to choose from. When I asked how much I owed, she said it was on Wilco and thanked me for my efforts.”

“We are proud to be part of the communities we actively serve and are extremely humbled by the efforts of all involved to fight the wildfires. This is one of the biggest contributions in Wilco history, and one that we know will make a difference in the communities most affected by the Oregon Wildfires,” Colson said. “This effort means a lot to our employees and farmers, many whom were personally affected by the wildfires.”

Wilco staff delivered a $75,000 check to Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund members on Monday, January 4 in Salem, OR (photo attached). In total over $120,000 in cash donations and supplies were given to those who needed it most during the 2020 Oregon wildfire relief efforts. Wilco plans to continue playing an active role in the Rebuild the Canyon projects in the coming year.

Wilco is headquartered in Mt. Angel, Oregon and is a farmer-owned cooperative established in 1967, with co-op roots that go back to the 1930’s. Since then, Wilco has evolved into one of the Northwest’s largest agricultural cooperatives, and today serves the unique needs of over 500,000 customers with a farmer-owner base of over 3,000 strong. Wilco’s mission is to strengthen agriculture and rural lifestyles.

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Jake Wilson
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