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.


  1. Thanks for the update and thanks for starting this fund for Erika and her family. Please keep us posted as to how she is doing and anything else we can do to help.

  2. Thank you for sharing updates. My heart is saddened with Erika's plight. Her husband's loss of his prosthetic leg is heart wrenching. Not only is it pricey to get another one, but it takes time to get it built to the person. I dad lost his leg.

    I reached out to others in my blog. I hope it encouraged others to donate.

    Erika is in my prayers daily!

    Carmen of Baking is my Zen

  3. As heartwrenching as it is to think of what Erika's family is dealing with, it is also heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and support..including the work you two have done to provide an available way for people to contribute. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to share these updates. I have been reaching out through twitter and my FB page to spread the word.

  5. Well said, Barbara. Thank you so very much for the update. :-)


  6. Thanks for the update on Erika and her family and on your donation efforts. It's seriously wonderful to see people loving and serving one another, people some of us have never met. It reminds me of how many truly good people there are in the world today. My prayers and thoughts are with Erika and her family.

  7. Erika, I lost my home and pets (3 dogs,3 cats and 1 bird) all beloved in 2005 on Easter Sunday. Please ask insurance immediately for a check to get immediate needs, all homeowners insurance policies have this in an emergency.Hard to understand but you will recover slowly and go on. For all reading this let this be a reminder,if you have not gone over and updated your homeowners insurance please do it - you never know...

  8. Erika,
    We were so sorry that we were away and could not help you during this tragic night. Thankfully, my mother and her husband were here watching our house and dog in our absence. I am so glad that she could help your mother-law get through that emotionally and physically exhausting time. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you all. We have family and friends asking how they can help and we will tell them about this blog. Please do not hesitate to call us and let us know how we can help you. Our love to Tom, you, Timmy and "Grandma".
    Dom and Barbara (#6 Tara)

  9. I've added a button to my blog, and will spread the news as best I can.

    Best wishes to Erika and her family.

  10. What you're doing is amazing. I'm so happy to see that there are people in this world who care about other people. Erika, I don't know you, but I saw what happened to you on My Baking Addiction, which I follow regularly. I'm SO sorry for your loss. But I am SO happy to hear that you and your family are safe. God be with you always. I did leave a donation as I hope everybody will when they read the story. If everybody leaves a little something, it will add up as I've seen already. I will spread the word.