September Message from Board Chair Karen Vineyard

Published Tuesday, September 29, 2020

In the face of (another) unimaginable tragedy, Oregonians again come together

In my August column I wrote about what a challenging year this has been – a global pandemic, nationwide social unrest, a deep economic recession. And now, unimaginably, our beloved state has faced yet another crisis of historic proportions: September wildfires that devastated communities; destroying homes, businesses, and livelihoods.

As of this writing, nine Oregonians have died, and some remain missing. Almost complete towns have burned down, and for the cities fortunate enough to be spared the actual flames, heavy smoke forced everyone inside and businesses to shutter – again – due to hazardous conditions.

This latest crisis hit home for me. The Estacada fire was just a few miles from my own home, and my husband and I lived with the uncertainty of watching for evacuation orders. Fortunately, our home is safe, but we know thousands of our fellow Oregonians were not so lucky. I know I speak for all of OBI – our staff, board of directors and our members – when I say our thoughts are with them now.

And, because our business community is so amazing, we can send the victims more than just our thoughts.

I am so proud that OBI partnered with chambers across Oregon, the Oregon Business Council and the Oregon Bankers Association to raise relief funds quickly after the fires sparked. The effort has raised more than $50,000 – and counting -- to support the communities hardest hit by the wildfire tragedies. If you haven’t donated already, I encourage you to do so:

Our plan is to work with the chamber community in the impacted areas to distribute the money we collect. Chambers of commerce have always been a gathering place for community members, and their leaders know the needs of their local communities better than any other. The OBI Foundation has made a gift that will cover all overhead costs associated with this process, so every single dollar donated will go toward relief for Oregonians.

This most recent tragedy has only reinforced what 2020 has already taught me: Oregonians are united and Oregon’s business community is strong. In times of crisis, we come together to support one another. In the face of chaos, we have seen kindness, from our neighbors, from local leaders, from corporations, from small businesses -- and everyone in between. It has really been extraordinary.

I know we’re all distracted, trying to stay safe from an invisible and deadly virus, trying to rebuild our communities after disaster, trying to make our state more equitable and welcoming, trying to keep our employees working and families fed.

So, I’ll just end with this: Thank you. Thank you to the first responders, the fire fighters, volunteers and doctors and nurses. Thank you to many of our state leaders. Thank you to our amazing, resilient businesses. Thank you for contributing to our Business Wildfire Relief Fund, or to any other organization rolling up its sleeves right now. Thank you, Oregonians, for uniting in these tough times. Our state will undoubtedly be the better for it. Stay safe.