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Helping out: ‘It’s just the right thing to do’

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Candi West’s home four miles north of Chelan was in danger of burning on Friday.

This did not stop her from helping an evacuated Methow woman whose dogs needed food.

It’s just the right thing to do,” West said Friday.

She was one of many people helping others that day in Chelan. Many people called agencies and organizations to see how they could help, officials said. Others, like West, just showed up where they thought there was a need.

Her hours of helping began about midnight when she realized people were being evacuated from Pateros. She gathered sleeping bags from her home and took them to the newly opened Red Cross shelter at Chelan High School.

There, officials told her that some people were rendezvousing with loved ones at the Walmart, north of town.

I made sandwiches and took fruit and water and asked every person in a car if they needed help,” West said.

She saw a woman crying, worried that she had no place to go because she had a little dog.

I put her on my brother’s couch for the night,” West said.

At 11:30 a.m., West was back at the Walmart parking lot where she and her husband, Kevin, had parked their trailer. They wanted a place to stay in case the fire headed toward their own home.

There, she ran into Tiloura Lund of Methow. Lund had fled her home Thursday night. On the way out, she had to drive over a bridge.

Flames were coming up as high as the truck,” she said.

She drove on, leaving her husband, who had told her to leave but insisted on staying to protect the house.

He’s this big, macho guy and I knew he could take care of himself,” she said. “He told me, if the fire comes too close, he’d jump in the river.”

Lund, parked in the Walmart lot for the night, heard this morning that their house was saved. She was relieved but needed food for her two dogs, and it was too hot to leave them inside her truck while she went shopping.

Enter Candi West, who volunteered her husband, Kevin, to stay in Lund’s truck with the air conditioner running while Candi drove Lund closer to the Walmart front door.

Lund, hearing that the Wests were worried about the fire reaching their own home, was amazed.

I just can’t believe how wonderful people are,” she said.

Lund said roadblocks were keeping her from getting back to her house so she might end up spending a second night at the Walmart parking lot. She was mulling over another offer from a kind soul: “This total stranger offered for me to stay with him and his wife tonight,” she said.

Back at the Red Cross shelter, volunteers Carrie Sorensen of Entiat and Lisa Robinson and Joan Kolde of Chelan were busy keeping ice in a drink tray.

Whatever else I had to do today, it can wait,” Sorensen said.

Wendy Rhodes of Chelan showed up at the shelter on Thursday night with her husband, Jim.

We said, ‘What do you want us to do?’ “ Rhodes said. “I’ve been in Chelan all my life, and I know a lot of people in Pateros, and I knew they needed help.”

She began organizing donations of food that people dropped off and expected to be there “as long as people need help,” she said.

Anita Rodriguez of Chelan was also volunteering at the shelter. Within a few hours, she had volunteered to house a woman and her two small children in her own home.

I saw her sitting there and they looked upset,” Rodriguez said. “This is what God would want me to do.”

At the Lake Chelan Food bank, regular volunteers also showed up, ready to accept donations and find a way to get the food to Pateros.

When people need help, you go,” said Jim Batdorf.

When Chelan residents John and Karen Zimmerman heard on the news about the nearby devastation, they looked around their house and started pulling things together.

We grabbed blankets, pillows, food, towels, games, anything we thought would help,” Karen Zimmerman said.

The call to action is helpful,” she added. “Look at all these people bringing stuff. It’s just awesome.”

Car after car pulled up in front of the Red Cross shelter at Chelan High School, delivering supplies. High school students were on hand to receive them, and many more volunteers were inside setting up sleeping areas, a children’s room, a baby changing room, and other rooms with clothing and food donations.

Community members donated vehicle loads of supplies — sheets, blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, towels, toiletries, baby supplies, toys, games and movies for children.

The response has “just been incredible,” said Christina Eglin, AmeriCorps disaster services coordinator for the American Red Cross.

World reporter Michelle McNiel contributed to this report.

Reach Dee Riggs at 509-664-7147 or .