From left, Kathleen Tracy surveys food donations in the lobby of the V Hotel. Eleven Cal Fire fighters with donation bags stand nearby. Photo by Brian Tracy

Tough circumstances have been known to draw out the best in people stressed and frustrated. Of course, it doesn’t always work. Some of us succumb to internet surfing and obsess with obsequious focus on the very things we don’t want to happen. Case in point, the unavoidable heat in Palm Springs the week Cranston Fire refugees searched for temporary housing also was demoralizing. Yet the tough got going, and here’s a couple of examples their positive energy created.

We’re sure there are more stories out there and if your uplifting efforts remain unknown and unnamed, take solace; you prevailed.

Aaron Quintyn, registered nurse, is accustomed to finding solutions to life and death situations in his role as a critical care nurse at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. This displaced Garner Valley resident and fire refugee felt helpless while staying with his mother-in-law in Palm Desert with his wife and two children. On July 26, he decided he had to somehow make a contribution.

Quintyn knew the Ace Hotel was housing many displaced Idyllwild residents and contacted Manager Celeste Brackley, who had already reduced room rates for fire refugees and allowed sky-island residents the use of their pool for no charge. Following “a what can we do” conversation with Quintyn, Brackley approached Crystal Fantasies, who led a drum circle at the Ace Hotel. She requested they expand their full-moon circle to include a group from greater Idyllwild.

Quintyn set about using social media to invite a large cross-section of displaced fire refugees from the Hill temporarily housing in the greater Palm Springs area. He also requested comfort food donations from local businesses such as Starbucks and other Palm Springs restaurants for the event.

Gathered in an outside garden at sunset on July 27, Tawny Harrington began playing a digeridoo as the moon rose over the horizon; Palm Desert residents Don and Mimi Lamp set intentions for unity and the fire’s abatement. Later, Brackley provided an inside room to the Idyllwild contingency who played guitar and sang together. “The entire experience lifted everyone’s spirits,” Quintyn said.

“Even in my nursing practice,” he said, “I’m beginning to see that when we synchronize our energies with intention, things really do happen. After that night, although displaced, we all continued to feel connected; it was a humbling experience. Every day, normal people all over Palm Desert extended great kindness and empathy to us,” said Quintyn.

In another part of dusty dry Palm Springs, Erin Sammons, manager of the V Palm Springs Hotel, put out a flier to all the hotels in Beaumont and Banning inviting them to refer evacuees if they were full, or especially those with pets would be welcome, as she’d reduced the nightly rate to $79, and waived the resort and pet fees.

At that point, Melody Johnston, who’d evacuated to the V Palm Springs Hotel with her husband Chris and two small dogs, was posting daily online about the 18 fire trucks with full crews of firefighters she witnessed arriving daily. “We were posting their arrivals, and donations of food and drinks were being collected but clothing was still needed. When Brian Tracy texted asking us to confirm what was needed, I went to the hotel manager who’d begun coordinating donations,” said Melody.

Brian and Kathleen Tracy evacuated to a friend’s condo in Palm Desert and spent their time connecting with friends off and on the Hill to learn the status of the fire’s advancement. This went on for three disturbing long days until it became clearer that the South Ridge fire line would hold, and the populated areas spared.

On Saturday, Brian mounted a voluntary initiative of monetary pledges from Idyllwild residents he and his wife Kathleen were in touch with and collected upwards of $1,200 in about 30 minutes. “Kathleen and I went to Costco and purchased a little over $1,200 worth of socks, T-shirts and underwear for men and women. While in Costco, a lady came up to us and asked what all the socks were for? When we told her, she reached into her wallet and handed us $100. Her name is Lana Kruger,” said Brian.

“Then the most remarkable thing happened. As we pulled up to the V Hotel, a full crew of firefighters had just pulled up and were entering the lobby. We drove into valet, parked and began unloading. The firefighters spontaneously formed a line and began throwing donations from the car into the lobby; it was quite a sight. There was only one woman firefighter present. She was ecstatic to receive an entire selection of fresh skivvies to distribute to her colleagues,” said Brian with a grin.

Donations were gratefully received from Brad and Jackie of Grand Idyllwild Lodge, Erik and Del Marcussen, Miles Thomas and Julie Lively of Idyllwild Acupuncture and Moving Lively, Melody and Chris Johnston of Middle Ridge Winery Tasting Gallery, Kathleen Tracy of Pilates in the Pines. Sharon Alexander, Jac and Mimi Jacaruso, Lisa and Jim Uhl, Rick and Lisa Villegas, Ken Carter of Café Aroma, Shanna and Dave Robb, Bonnie Keefe, Joyce Shoemaker and Sharon Huff.

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