I'll admit, I wasn’t entirely sold on buying a car without knowing who it was going to. It didn’t help that Rhandi prefaced it with “don’t be mad, but we’re buying a car!”
One trip to Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks later, the decision to buy a car and gift it to an elderly couple who lost their ride during the Thomas fire proved to be much more practical and fruitful than handing over a check. The time and energy it takes to buy a car is something this elderly couple didn’t have- which made this gift genius.
It seems that everyone knows someone who was affected by the Thomas fire. Rhandi’s friend Nate was no different. We first learned about Jack last week, and upon checking his current GoFundMe page, we decided to wait and se how his page fared over time. Turns out he was in need of help. As luck would have it, Rhandi had a friend who was selling her Toyota Corolla before she moved to the Pacific Northwest. A perfect match. We drove to Ojai and picked it up. The Corolla had been smogged the week before, and with the help of Rhandi’s neighbor, tuned up for free. It pays to know people.
When Rhandi relayed Jack’s story to me, I was heartbroken. Hearing devastating stories from the Thomas fire never gets easier. On December 4th, the first night of the fire, Jack and his wife were forced to evacuate since the fire was close to their apartment in Downtown Ventura. They went to a shelter. In the morning, when the fire was picking up steam and spreading rapidly, his wife needed immediate medical treatment. She was rushed to the hospital and had surgery because of complications with her gull bladder. Jack has spent the last two weeks in the hospital with her.
After the ride up the grade, Rhandi and her sister delivered the car to Jack. He exclaimed to both of them, “I used to have a Corrolla!” It immediately brought Jack back to better times. Rhandi said that out of all the people we’ve met in the past two weeks, he was by the far the most positive and uplifting. In times of devastation, keeping positive, and subsequently sustaining optimism, can be a challenge. Jack proved how powerful positivity can be. He doesn’t have a place to stay once his wife is released from the hospital. Yet today he felt the love from his community- his 'family' in Ventura. Even though the fire destroyed his home, Jack and his wife will be back, cruising through town in their spiffy new Toyota Corolla coupled with a big ole smile.