Website Provides Life-Changing Connections to Fire and Mudslide Victims - NBC Southern California
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Website Provides Life-Changing Connections to Fire and Mudslide Victims

"We were able to connect people who needed things to people who had things to give"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Website Connects Fire and Mudslide Victims to Help

    Two people came together to create a website that connects people affected by the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslides to help that could have possibly saved their lives. Kathy Vara reports for NBC4 news on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. (Published Friday, Feb. 2, 2018)

    Two people determined to help those affected by the Thomas fire and Montecito mudslides used their skills to connect those who needed help to the people who had things to give.

    Pilot Jeff Moorhead lands his Beechcraft Bonanza and taxis in to pick up breast cancer patient Joanne Vega.

    "With what happened with the mudslides, I was very anxious how I was going to get to my appointments," Vega said.

    Vega needed radiation treatment but with the 101 Freeway blocked by mud, she turned to the non-profit ThomasFireHelp.org.

    "We were able to connect people who needed things to people who had things to give," said Chris Collier, co-founder of ThomasFireHelp.org.

    Collier and Emily Barany, who both live in Ventura County, knew they wanted to help people affected by the fire and mudslides.

    "What can I do? How can I make a positive difference?" Barany said.

    They secured a domain name and published a website.

    "A few hours later we had a hundred entries from the community," Collier said.

    Not only did people lack housing and supplies, many needed a way to get to their medical appointments. So they reached out again.

    "Alright, who's got a plane who wants to help? In 24 hours, 50 pilots had signed up," Collier said.

    "It's crazy! I keep asking myself how did we get here? How do we all of a sudden have a volunteer airline by accident?" Barany said.

    Volunteer helicopter pilot John Ross, flew 8-year-old Eliana Georges to get a heart monitor at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

    "We were able to get permission to land right on the helipad. Which is just incredible door-to-door service for this little girl," Barany said.

    Collier and Barany say they are not heroes for making all of this happen.

    "I sat behind a computer with a cellphone," Collier said.

    They say the real heroes are the volunteers who answered the call for help.

    "People have no idea how much their community wants to step up and support them," Barany said.

    Barany and Collier said they want to form an international non-profit to help people in emergencies all over the world. Both have other jobs but they are dedicated to making sure everyone who needs help from the Thomas fire and the mudslides is taken care of.