September Cheers & Jeers: Always look for the helpers

From the hurricanes and flooding in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, to the devastating earthquakes rocking Mexico to the wildfires burning across the West Coast that hit especially close to home, September has been a month marred by disaster.

And while it’s easy to become overwhelmed by bad news topped by even-worse news day after day, we always try to remember the lesson of children’s television legend Fred Rogers when confronting a month like September:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,'” Mr. Rogers once told an interviewer. “To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

In the spirit of Mr. Rogers, we are discarding the “Jeers” from this month’s “Cheers and Jeers” editorial and giving our most heartfelt “cheers” to the helpers who walk amongst us, including:

THE FIREFIGHTERS: If you were like most people who cherish the Columbia River Gorge, those few days after Labor Day — when ash was raining down on Clark and Multnomah counties and wildfires were raging on both sides of the river — were filled with worry and sadness. No one really knew how bad the Eagle Creek Fire on the Oregon side of the Gorge might get or if the much smaller Archer Mountain fire on this side of the Gorge might explode, threatening Skamania and Washougal homes.

Luckily, it was easy to see the helpers that week — they were right there in the heart of the fire, risking their own lives to contain the flames; surrounding historic Multnomah Falls Lodge with a protective ring of water for days to ensure this irreplaceable piece of Pacific Northwest history wouldn’t disappear forever; and going door to door to make sure people in the danger zone were out of their homes and heading to a safe place.

To the more than 1,000 firefighters who worked (and are still working) to quell the Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon, who saved Multnomah Falls Lodge and who fully extinguished the nearby Archer Mountain Fire, “cheers” for your heroic work. We cannot thank you enough.

THE ANIMAL LOVERS: It’s easy to focus on the human helpers, but we can’t forget about those who take care of our best friends. As we learned after Hurricane Katrina, people often will sacrifice their own safety and lives to stay with their beloved pets, so having pet-friendly shelters available for people fleeing floods and fires with their dogs and cats in their arms is a critical piece of disaster response.

We give our “cheers” to those who helped care for the animals during the Eagle Creek and Archer Mountain fires, bringing pet supplies and food and water to the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson; volunteering their time inside the Skamania fairgrounds’ barn to care for the displaced dogs, cats and farm animals; and, in Oregon, helping more than 500 large animals find shelter from the flames.

Want to show your appreciation for local animal helpers? The West Columbia Gorge Humane Society’s Washougal-based animal shelter is a good place to start. An independent, nonprofit, no-kill shelter, the 23-year-old WCGHS strives to “end unnecessary euthanasia of all healthy or treatable companion animals in our community and find them permanent, loving homes.”

Last year alone, the small Washougal shelter found homes for nearly 500 homeless dogs and cats — an impressive number, considering this organization has a shoestring budget and often relies on volunteers and generous community members to keep its operations going.

The WCGHS’s annual fundraiser is coming up in just a few weeks. The “Tail to Remember” dinner and auction kicks off at 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Hilton Vancouver, 301 W. Sixth St., Vancouver. Tickets cost $65. All proceeds will benefit the WCGHS and support the group’s mission of saving companion animals and finding them forever homes. If you have the time and money, it’s a great way to show your appreciation for our local animal helpers, and give the WCGHS folks a few “cheers” in person.