A Message from Matt Franklin on the Sonoma Fires

Love is Thicker than Smoke, Drawn by shelter residents

Dear Valued Partners and Friends,

Last week, on October 17th, MidPen had planned to hold the ribbon cutting ceremony for Fetters Apartments, our newest affordable housing community and our first in Sonoma. The invitations had gone out, the catering had been ordered, the speakers had all been lined up… Then, the fires came with their devastation and our focus quickly shifted from planning a celebration to tending to the welfare of the 60 MidPen families who had recently moved into their brand new homes – homes that were now at risk of being engulfed by flames.

It felt otherworldly. But like tens of thousands of others across the region, Sonoma-based MidPen staff and MidPen’s newest residents, were evacuated. Some stayed with friends or family, many stayed in temporary shelters. MidPen’s Property Management and Services teams worked diligently to keep in contact with as many families as possible, ensuring their safety. It was a very, very frightening few days – one with little sleep and minute-by-minute updates as to the ever changing winds and situation…

Before After verticalSo today we are extremely grateful to report that somehow, against all odds, Fetters Apartments in Sonoma Springs stands. The skies have cleared and our residents have begun to move back home. Many lost a week’s worth of income, some lost their places of employment, a few even lost friends or family who lived elsewhere. So there were significant losses to be sure and MidPen staff is already hard at work to aid our residents in recouping and recovering.

But there were some remarkable gains, too. In the midst of the chaos, Fetters’ community members came together during the evacuations, taking care of their neighbors, making sure that each was safe and accounted for. Through the hardship – food and clothing was shared, transportation provided, and even a surprise birthday party thrown in the shelter for one of the youngest community members! The experience that Fetters residents endured together is now the bond that will strengthen their community for years to come. To use a phrase coined by some of the survivors last week: love is thicker than smoke. We agree!

MidPen recognizes that many others in the region were not so fortunate. Thousands of people have been displaced, thousands more have lost their livelihoods. In the coming weeks, months and even years, we’ll be working alongside other community leaders to do all we can to be good neighbors and help rebuild the Sonoma we all love. And when the dust has settled and the time is right, we’ll formally cut the ribbon on Fetters Apartments and invite you to join in a celebration which will be particularly meaningful.

For now, our deepest thanks go to the first responders – firefighters, police, medical personnel – whose brave efforts saved Fetters and thousands of other homes. You are truly heroes and we are forever grateful.

With deepest respect,

signature - Matthew O. Franklin - President, MidPen Housing

Matt Franklin
MidPen Housing