As news of the Erskine fire’s devastation spread through media reports, donations of food, clothing and supplies started to arrive by truckloads to the Kern River Valley.
One such organization that answered the call for help was the Sikh Friends of Bakersfield, who brought in hot meals for the hundreds of fire victims, emergency responders and volunteers assisting on the fire disaster.
The Sikh Friends set up at Kern Valley High School’s cafeteria on Wednesday, June 29, where they provided free hot meals daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to anyone affected by the fire. Along with a hot meal, they offered fruit, water and assorted snacks.
Balmeet Singh, from the Sikh Friends of Bakersfield said once they heard about the devastating fire, they met to discuss what they could do to help. “We wanted to do something for this community, so we decided to collect clothing, money and food together and bring it up here.”
In addition to the items they had collected, the Sikh Friends’ also provided a hot meal on Sunday, June 26 to anyone associated with the fire. It was at that time, Singh said, that they realized that the fire was much more than what they had seen on the media and social network.
“We got the opportunity to meet the people and see the faces of the fire,” Singh said.
That is when the five Sikh “Gurdwara’s” or community centers decided that they would provide meals for not just one day, rather they would bring hot meals to the community free of charge for a number of days, through Sunday, July 3.
The idea of providing a free meal to those in need is a 500-year-old tradition within the Sikh community. Gurdwara’s are open 24-hours a day, seven days a week for that purpose within all communities where the Sikhs live and work.
In preparation for the week in the Kern Valley, Singh said they prepared enough food to feed 500 each day.
“We try to help where we can,” Singh said. “It’s amazing to see the strength and resilience of the community.”
Seema Sandhu, who, along her husband, Balram, own Little Caesars’s pizza and Subway sandwich shop in Lake Isabella provided boxes of pizzas for the meal on Wednesday. Sandhu noted that they suffered a personal loss by the fire, as two of their employees lost their homes.
Debbie Mudore was one of many residents enjoying the hospitality of the Sikh Friends. “I am so thankful for so many good people, I just can’t believe this and I’m very humbled by all of the support,” Mudore said.
The free meals were donated by the Sikh Friends of Bakersfield in cooperation with the Kern County Fire Department and Kern High School District.