Sierra Nevada Commits $10 Million to Grant Program in Wildfire Ravaged Northern California

Sierra Nevada Brewing is committing at least $10 million to a new grant program aimed at providing relief to the Northern California communities affected by last November’s “Camp Fire” — the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

Chico-based Sierra Nevada is partnering with two charitable organizations — the North Valley Community Foundation and the Aaron Rodgers NorCal Fire Recovery Fund — on the creation of the Butte Strong Fund, a grant program that will provide funding to organizations in six areas: housing, children and youth services, health and wellness, education, community development, and business recovery.

However, the fund will not provide direct assistance to individuals affected by the wildfire, which killed 85 people, displaced tens of thousands of residents, and destroyed more than 18,800 structures.

“We’ve established the Butte Strong Fund to address the long and difficult road ahead in pursuit of true healing and recovery for our communities,” Alexa Benson-Valavanis, president and CEO of the North Valley Community Foundation, said via a press release.

Sierra Nevada spokeswoman Robin Gregory told Brewbound that the three organizations teamed up in an effort to increase their impact by pooling their resources and to avoid duplicating their efforts. Recipients will be announced in the coming weeks, she added.

The majority of Sierra Nevada’s contribution to the Butte Strong Fund will come from proceeds of its Resilience IPA fundraising program. About a week after the start of the Camp Fire, Sierra Nevada announced plans to brew Resilience IPA and donate the proceeds to relief efforts.

Inspired by a similar fundraising effort launched by Russian River founders Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, who raised more than $1.1 million for wildfire relief efforts in Sonoma and Napa, Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman encouraged beer companies from across the country to brew their own versions of a beer called Resilience IPA and to donate the proceeds.

Nearly 1,5000 breweries agreed to brew anywhere from three-barrel batches to 30-barrel batches, Gregory said. Suppliers such as Country Malt, Admiral Malt, Great Western Malting, Briess Malt & Ingredients, Yakima Chief Hops, Crosby Hop Farm, S.S. Steiner, Haas and White Labs, among others, also contributed ingredients.

Sierra Nevada brewed 5,000 barrels of its version of Resilience IPA, which was released on draft and in cans in about 20 states, Gregory said. She added that two Resilience IPA can releases held at Sierra Nevada’s Chico brewery quickly sold out.

“The amount of beer that we [normally] have coming out of our gift shop in a week, we sold five times that much in the first day,” she said.

Gregory estimated that as much as $15 million could potentially be raised through the Resilience IPA program, if the 1,484 breweries that signed up for the program produce to their stated commitment levels.

“It’s still kind of speculative because the money is just starting to come in from other breweries,” she said.

Nevertheless, the Grossman family started the fundraising efforts by establishing the Sierra Nevada Community Fund with a $100,000 donation just days after the start of the fire. Other breweries followed suit, including Trumer Brauerei, which matched the Grossmans’ donation of $100,000 and chipped in an extra $10,000 to support Sierra Nevada employees affected by the wildfire.

Shortly after the Camp Fire broke out, Sierra Nevada temporarily ceased operations at its Chico production brewery and evacuated employees. Although the fire never reached the brewery, more than 50 Sierra Nevada employees lost their homes in the blaze, Gregory told Brewbound. The company has offered those workers assistance through internal fundraising efforts as well as providing them with temporary housing on a plot of land located near the brewery on which trailers have been set up.

“So for the short-term future, employees are able to have some place to live,” Gregory said.

Due to privacy concerns, she declined to share how many employees are living in the temporary housing near the brewery.

More information on how to apply for a grant through the Butte Strong Fund can be found here.

A press release with additional details is also included below.

Butte Strong Fund: a Roadmap for Recovery

Jan. 10, 2019—Three major philanthropic initiatives supporting the Camp Fire relief effort have joined forces to create the Butte Strong Fund — a master group that will work to provide a roadmap for recovery.

The Butte Strong Fund is a partnership of the North Valley Community Foundation, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and the Aaron Rodgers NorCal Fire Recovery Fund. Representatives from each organization will work together throughout the long-term process to identify and fund local recovery organizations.

The Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018, is the most destructive wildfire in state history. It killed at least 86 people, displaced tens of thousands and destroyed nearly 19,000 homes, businesses and other buildings.

The response from the community and around the country was rapid, with thousands of people donating roughly $25 million for Camp Fire relief.

“We’ve established the Butte Strong Fund to address the long and difficult road ahead in pursuit of true healing and recovery for our communities,” said Alexa Benson-Valavanis, president and CEO of the North Valley Community Foundation. “It is clear that we are united in our suffering and also our strength.

“We are bound by our compassion and our resilience. Not only are we in this together but it will take sticking together to get through this. NVCF is here now and for the long journey ahead.”

The North Valley Community Foundation’s Camp Fire Relief Fund used more than $1.3 million early for direct relief and recovery needs — for gift cards, child care services, mental health needs, emergency shelter and much more.

After opening its doors to first responders and community members in the immediate aftermath, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. began a long-term fundraising campaign. The Chico-based brewery also enlisted more than 1,400 breweries nationwide to brew Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, with all proceeds from sales going to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief fund. The bulk of these funds — projected be to more than $10 million — will be used to implement Butte Strong Fund initiatives.

“By joining forces with these great partners, we can significantly increase the positive impact on our community,” said Sierra Grossman, Vice President and head of Corporate and Social Responsibility at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “The support of our global brewing industry has allowed us to support our Butte County community. It’s been heartwarming to see the light of the human spirit shine through even the darkest of hours.”

Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback and two-time NFL Most Valuable Player who hails from Butte County, donated $1 million initially and encouraged partners to add to the recovery efforts..

The Butte Strong Fund was set up with the specific intent to work alongside communities for years.

Organizations can apply for grants focused on six areas: 1) housing, 2) children and youth services, 3) health and wellness, 4) education, 5) community development, and 6) business recovery.

Benson-Valavanis said housing is a vital issue, requiring both short-term and long-term solutions.

“There’s not enough relief money to rebuild the impacted communities, but we hope to help with projects that will kick-start the process and make a meaningful difference in the lives of our community members,” she said.

The Butte Strong Fund does not have a direct assistance program. Individuals are not eligible for direct funding. Funding is provided only to eligible organizations that are directly serving people displaced by the Camp Fire.

For more information on the Butte Strong Fund, and to learn more about the upcoming grant application process, see ButteStrongFund.org. The consideration of grant requests and the final decisions on funding will be made by a committee of local stakeholders and leaders.

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Butte Strong Fund, 240 Main St., Suite 260, Chico, CA 95928 or by visiting www.nvcf.org and clicking Donate.

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