Wednesday, September 8, 2010

YOU DID IT! WE MADE IT $10,000!!

Hello Friends,

It is with great joy that I write to tell you we have reached our goal…a day early! We have officially raised over $10,000 for Erika and her family in the seven days since the fire.

The words Thank You seem really insufficient here, but I don’t know what else to say. You are the most wonderful group of people – and you have the most generous family and friends who helped us, dollar by dollar, to cross the finish line.

There is no doubt that Erika, Tom and Tim have a long road ahead of them, but I know that the support from the blogging community has helped them – not just monetarily, but also emotionally. Try to imagine if you lost everything in a fire, and hundreds, maybe thousands of people you had never met banded together and came to your aid. $10,000 along with hundreds of e-mails and comments – all with the same message: We are here for you! What an outpouring of love and support. As I said in my last post, we can no longer call each other strangers.

I don’t know about you all, but I am bursting with pride. And my heart is warmed by the events of this past week. I hope a lot of you are coming to Blogher Food in a few weeks. We hope to meet you. And give you a hug and thank you in person for your support.

With much love and respect,

Maggy and Alice

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Finishing Strong

Photo by Erika - What remains of her home.
Last night Erika updated her blog with a beautiful but candid post about the aftermath of the fire.  Just to warn you, you may need a tissue. 
Photo by Erika of Ivory Hut
For five straight days we've asked you to help us spread the word about our fundraising efforts for Friends of Ivory Hut.  Not only did you spread the word, you've helped us raise $9500.  With only two days left our first stage of relief assistance, we only have $500 to go!  It amazes me but doesn't surprise me how incredibly supportive and generous you've been and we thank you.

I found this photo Erika shot and was struck by how beautiful it is.  Even though this boat is headed straight into the uncertainty of a crashing waterfall, there are many people on board to journey with her.  This is exactly how I view all of the people who have compassionately supported Erika with positive thoughts, prayers, and a monetary donation.  We are all in this together... she is not alone.

With only two days left in our campaign, we hope to raise the remaining $500 to reach our goal of $10,000.  For everyone who has already donated, thank you so much.  You've helped Erika and her family more than you'll ever know.  And for anyone still considering donating, please feel free to read through the last entries to understand the mission of this fundraising project. 

Thank you again for all your active support.  We would not have made it this far without you.

Your friends,
Alice and Maggy

Monday, September 6, 2010

Because of You - Almost There

Photo by Maggy Keet - Rancho La Puerta
Last week, Jamie from My Baking Addiction wrote a blog post about Erika which I read almost as soon as it was posted. There was only one comment – but it struck me. I read it a few times. After saying that she had donated, a woman named Beth had written:

"I realized how often I don’t give “strangers” another thought. It’s so easy to concentrate on my own “problems” and brush off the trouble of others."

Her insightful comment reminded me of watching a video clip of the fire on Erika’s local news website. My Dad and I watched with gaping jaws. “Wow,” Dad said, “usually this is just news, but it’s so difficult to watch when it’s someone you know.”

There are billions of strangers in this world and countless tragedies that never make the evening news, but no matter the size of your heart, it is impossible to personalize or sympathize with every one. But we want to thank everyone who did give Erika and her family another thought. It is because of you that we have nearly reached our $10,000 goal and it is because of you that we are no longer strangers. Caring for people we don’t know draws us close and strengthens the incredible community we have.

Please help us raise these last several hundred dollars by Wednesday!

Your friends,
Maggy and Alice

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Your Generosity Is Amazing

Photo by Erika of Ivory Hut
"The other day, as we went back to where our house stood, I stopped by the house next door. Their young daughters along with their friends had put up a lemonade stand. It read "Fresh Lemonade, 50 cents." (Of course, I started thinking that maybe I can suggest that they make their lemonade special and add some muddled mint leaves to it. Food blogging is a hard habit to break.) Then I read the bottom of the sign: "All the money goes to the house next door." I walked to their stand to thank them but I couldn't help bursting into tears.

I am heartened by the thought that these kids, at a young age, simply made up their mind to help and did something about it." - Erika

In the last five days "Friends of Ivory Hut" has raised $8500 for Erika and her family.  Your outpouring of support has been nothing short of amazing.  Of course this could not have happened without every tweet, Facebook tweet, email, and other ways of spreading Erika's story with your friends and family.  THANK YOU!  We are hoping to raise the last $1500 the next few days and would greatly appreciate it if you continued to help us with this campaign.

Erika's positive attitude, deep sense of gratitude, and outlook on this sad situation has been incredibly inspiring.  I know she feels uplifted, encouraged, and hopeful for her future.  Much of her positive disposition has to do with your swift supportive response to to help.  She is overwhelmed with gratitude from the food and photography community so much.  In fact, I would say she is overflowing with gratitude. She already has plans to find ways to give back to her community.  But for right now, she is humbled by the kindness of others.

We will keep you updated as we are updated.  Please continue to send positive thoughts her way.

Your friends,

Alice and Maggy

PS:  We will continue to update this site throughout the week.  We've posted the links to each new entry in the left sidebar for those who want to follow updates.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Your Generosity and Some Thoughts from Erika

Photo by Erika of Ivory Hut
I spoke to Erika for the first time since the fire on Thursday afternoon. After the initial relief of hearing her voice, I told her about the money you all had raised for her in the past 24 hours. Her response was, “Whaaaaaaat?” Then silence. She couldn’t believe it; couldn’t quite wrap her head around the magnitude of your generosity and love. “Do you want me relay a message to the blogging community on the Friends of IvoryHut website?” I asked. “Mags, I don’t know what to say” she said. “Thank you isn’t enough.” I replied, “You don’t have to say anything at all, but if you do – it doesn’t have to be anything fantastic or profound. No one expects that.” She paused for a moment, “No, it’s not that I’m worried about saying the right thing, I’m just afraid I can’t put a coherent sentence together.” But it’s been a few days since our first phone call and she’s had a moment to process her thoughts and feelings.

Last night Erika wrote an e-mail to Alice and me. To say it was beautiful, insightful and selfless is an understatement, but that’s Erika. I wanted to share with you a short excerpt:

“Some people used to label bloggers as self-absorbed because we mostly write about our own lives. I tell those people now that nothing could be further from the truth. And I want to thank every single person who, in the last few days, has warmly embraced me and my family and made me proud to count myself a part of this incredible community. You have built us up in more ways than I can express. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” - Erika

I have spoken to Erika several times over the last few days and she has sounded stronger, more upbeat and positive with each call. They are staying at a hotel and will be moved into temporary housing next week. I also wanted to tell you that I transferred the first of your funds to Erika last night so they will now have nearly instant access to that cash – what a blessing.

As Alice said in her last post, our goal is to reach $10,000 by the one week mark (Wednesday,September 8) at which point we will end this initial fundraising campaign. Although Erika and Tom have homeowner’s insurance, this will not cover their living expenses in the coming months while they piece their lives back together. As mentioned, Erika earns much of her income through freelance writing and photography, which will be difficult, particularly as her prized Canon 5D MarkII and brand new MacBook Pro (and the irreplaceable files on them) were lost in the fire. Their living costs will remain the same (if not higher than before) despite the decrease in income, so please consider a donation. We’ve had nearly 300 donations ranging from $2 to $500 and we are equally grateful for each donation, no matter the size.

Thank you for your continued support – in so many ways. We are amazed, yet not surprised at your incredibly generosity. In addition to monetary donations, please keep Erika and her family in your prayers.

With Thanks,

Maggy and Alice

Friday, September 3, 2010

Update on Erika

Photo by Erika Pineda (Ivory Hut) - Peace Valley
I would like you to imagine for one moment what it would "feel" like if you were standing outside your home and helplessly watching it go up in flames as a cloud of numbness and denial descended upon you.  Fortunately for most of us, we will never experience this. Unfortunately for Erika of Ivory Hut this is not only her reality it is a living nightmare.  The last 48 hours has been a somber time for many of us who know and love Erika, but how we feel is nothing compared to what Erika is going through.  She hasn't had time to really process what has happened but I'm sure there is a day coming soon when she will grieve over the loss of her home. It is said that home is where are heart is.  But what do you do when your home is a pile of ashes and your heart is grieving major loss?  What do you do when your world is turned upside in a matter of minutes and there is no sign it will get any better soon?  This is Erika's reality right now.  But she is not walking through this alone.

So many of you have lifted some of the burden from her shoulders by pouring out your hearts and resources to support Erika and her family during this difficult time.  The outpouring of support the last 36 hours has been truly amazing.

The food blogging community is best known for their passion, creativity, and influential social media presence.  Sometimes we disagree, but this remains true: food bloggers are generous and know how to unite and rally in a time of crisis for one of their own.

Our goal today was to raise $5000 and you didn't disappoint!  With nearly 200 people donating, we've raised $5600! Thank you for all your blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates, and emails to friends and family.  We hope to raise $10,000 by next week.  We plan on shutting down direct Paypal donations after Wednesday, September 8 - exactly one week after we started this site.  However, if you feel compelled to continue to support Erika, we will gladly accept your donations.  From there we plan on doing other fundraisers to continue to support Erika and her family.  Many of you have expressed creative ways to contribute financially including donating a month of ad revenue, selling items in your Etsy stores, hosting auctions, etc.  We love your ideas and encourage you to continue to come up with ways to raise awareness and money for this cause.

I know it is important for people to know why they are donating and what the money is being used for.  Erika and her husband do have home owners insurance.  Over time the insurance company will replace many of the items which were lost in the fire.  However, they will not pay for expenses unrelated to the fire, which includes their loss of income.  As we mentioned in a previous post, Erika is a freelance photographer.  Although her equipment will eventually be replaced, the loss of income she suffers will not.  The next few months as she and her family begin to rebuild their lives there will be little to no income coming in to support her family, which includes her elderly mother that she is a caretaker to. Please take this into consideration when deciding if you should donate.  It will likely take months before she can actively work again and the money we raise will help them with daily living expenses not covered by insurance.

What we are able to raise will go directly to help support them until they can get back on their feet.  The generous outpouring of your support has encouraged Erika and her family during this difficult time.  She is overwhelmed with gratitude by the kindness of people - many that don't even know her.  THANK YOU!

I know many of you have been eager to know how Erika is doing and have questions on what is happening with her. Both Maggy and I spoke with her on the phone today and I will share with you what I know.

Where are they living?
The last two nights she and her family (husband, son, and mother) have stayed with friends.  When I last spoke with her the insurance company was trying to find a hotel for them.  Obviously they cannot live in a hotel forever.  However, until they know more from their insurance company, they do not know what they will do for future housing. Some of you have asked if you can send them things to help restore their possessions.  Currently they are not set up nor do they have any space to receive anything.  When this changes we will update you here.

How did the fire start? 
At this time, the cause of the fire is still unknown.

Is everything really gone?  
Sadly, yes.  Because of the extreme dry heat the East Coast has had all summer her house was engulfed with flames very quickly.  The fire department was unable to control or contain the fire any closer than her driveway.  I learned today her husband had restored a classic car in their garage.  When they returned to their home to assess the damage, he asked the fireman if there was any remnants of his car.  The fireman looked at him and said, "there was a car in there?" In other words, everything is gone to ashes.

How is everyone doing?   
Erika is a very exhausted.  She hasn't slept since the fire and understandably has no appetite to eat.  However, she is very strong and steadfast in her resolve to remain a constant source of strength for her family.  Her elderly mother-in-law is still understandably traumatized from the fire.  Please continue to keep this family in your thoughts and prayers - I know she is being sustained by them during this difficult time.

What about Erika's husband?   
As she mentioned in her original post, her husband's prosthetic leg was burned in the fire.  Much of how she spent her day today was at a doctor's office finding a temporary replacement until he can be properly fitted.  Prosthetic body parts are not easily or quickly replaced.

What about her ID?   
Both Erika and her husband were born outside of the United States. This makes it very difficult to replace birth certificates, which are required when applying for new passports and drivers licenses.  All forms of identification were destroyed in the fire.

How can I contact Erika?   
I'm told her mother is lending her a laptop.  I'm not sure whether or not she is checking email.  Best way to leave an encouraging note is by leaving a comment on her blog post related to the fire.  You can also leave one here.  Either way, I know she appreciates every comment and tweet you all have been sending her.

What can you do to help?   
The best way to immediately help is to directly donate through Paypal.  100% of all proceeds is going directly to Erika and her family.  Would you please consider skipping lattes for a week and donate the money you would have spent on coffee?  Every dollar helps!

Thank you again for all your tremendous efforts of spreading the word about Friends of Ivory Hut. 

Alice and Maggy

<<Update>> We've updated today's original post to reflect our fundraising goals.  Originally I stated we would shut the direct giving portion down when we reached our goal of $10,000.  However, we've decided to make this phase of our fundraising efforts just 1 week long.  Our hope is to reach or surpass $10,000. However, we also recognize a need for a finalized date for this initial campaign drive in the event we do not reach our goal. Everyone has been so great to RT, post about Erika on their blogs, and Facebook.  But we also understand your audience will have already been exposed a great deal to this phase of our efforts and we do not want you to lose your following over this.  With this taken into consideration, last day to directly donate will be this Wednesday.

We are also currently looking for companies to partner with us.  Ideally we would like to work with companies who will match contributions or provide practical gift cards for Erika's family.  If you are a PR company, please email alice at .

If you unfamiliar with Erika's story, please read our original post here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Glimpse of Erika

I want to tell you a story…

On Monday of this week I realized that I had lost my passport (and I was leaving the country on Friday). Of course, I panicked. I completely lost the ability to think rationally and logically. But Erika was there – she made phone calls, trawled the internet, searched for answers and options all day long while I searched for my passport. She kept me updated via text, email and phone calls. She was beyond supportive. Even yesterday morning, the morning after her house fire, she wrote to ask how my passport appointment had gone.

That is but one illustration of the kind of person Erika is. I write to you in the early morning hours, way past my bedtime, but I wanted to let you that last night we raised over $2,200 for our friend. On behalf of Erika and her family, I want to thank all of you who contributed.

But today is a new today. And today we’re feeling ambitious. We want to raise another $2,000 by tonight.  Now it’s time to be there for the one who has always helped others. Please give as you feel comfortable. $5, $10, $15 or $50. It all adds up.

Thanks again for all your support - this community is, and continues to be, incredible.

Maggy and Alice