Plumfund Founders Mobilize Local Community for Valley Fire Victims

By Sara and Josh Margulis

This post starts Plumfund's month-long series of inspirational stories leading up to Giving Tuesday on December 1. As the founders of Honeyfund and Plumfund, we see beautiful stories of giving every day, and we're honored to be sharing them with you all month.

2015-11-02-1446428264-7070913-ValleyFireCouple.jpeg Plumfund founders Sara & Josh Margulis with fire victims Autumn & Emmanuel

Prologue: Why We Give
Giving plays an important role in our lives and our work. In 2005, when we were engaged to be married, crowdfunding wasn't a word. After budgeting for our wedding, we didn't have the funds to plan our dream honeymoon, so we put out a simple wish list to our wedding guests. Our friends and family pitched in and gave us a whopping $5,000 to make our dream honeymoon happen! We launched Honeyfund a year later, to give that same opportunity to other wedding couples. And we gave 10 percent of our honeymoon funds to two of our favorite charities: Doctors Without Borders and the National Institute of Mental Health. Giving us a beautiful lifelong memory was thrilling for our guests. Paying a portion forward to charity, and creating a free platform to give honeymoon funding to other couples felt amazing to us. Giving feels good.

In 2013, we launched Plumfund, to make online giving feel good for all of life's occasions, for free. This year, we used Plumfund in a way we never imagined.

The Plumfund Story: Valley Fire Destroys 76,000 acres in Northern California
Honeyfund and Plumfund are headquartered in Northern California in Sara's hometown of Sebastopol. On September 12, 2013, in a matter of just hours, the Valley Fire devastated many communities in nearby Lake County, burning 76,067 acres and more than 1,000 homes and businesses. Four people lost their lives; this was the third-worst fire in California's history and it hit very close to home. Friends were displaced, members of our Sebastopol church lost their home, many more we didn't know had their lives turned upside down. In a state of shock, we immediately launched a Plumfund page to help with the recovery.

Plumfund Giving in Action: A Community Comes Together for Fire Victims
The Valley Fire Plumfund page quickly gained shares and media coverage in the community, as well as donations. A close friend who lives in Hidden Valley Lake conveyed story after story of families who lost every worldly possession, displaced pets and farm animals wandering through the charred remains of neighborhoods needing food and water, and evacuees who didn't know if their homes still existed. We wanted to connect the funds directly to the victims, so we invited them to "Valley Hope," a benefit on October 2, 2015, hosted by the Community Church of Sebastopol. The evening was focused on providing families who lost it all with a sense of community and support, as well as cash. With a few phone calls, local service providers, businesses and volunteers came together to create a truly inspiring event, including a delicious home cooked BBQ meal, wine and beer, chair massage, dancing, raffle items and crafts and toys for children. Twenty-four families received $550 each in emergency cash. Victims who attended the event enjoyed a night of hugs, music, laughter and joy, as well as free household items from the church's rummage sale. It was one of the most heartwarming displays of community support we have ever witnessed.

As of today, the Plumfund campaign and Valley Hope event have raised and distributed more than $16,000. The families are beginning to put their lives back together. But this story is not over. The rebuilding process is long, and that's why our campaign is still open. Thank you for reading, and for allowing our community's story to inspire you to give during this holiday season and all year long!

2015-11-02-1446428345-9788467-ThankYou_ValleyFire_cropped.jpg From a family who lost their home in the Valley Fire

Sara and Josh Margulis are the co-founders of Plumfund, the free crowdfunding site for celebrations and inspiration, where giving feels good! Sara and Josh would like to thank the following people who made Valley Hope possible: Gene Nelson, Karin Seder, Kathleen Matthies, Caitlin Carciere, Linda and Roger Collins, Lisa Dawson, Girl Scout Troup 10555, Darryl Fenley, Chris Hudlow, Bryan Turner, Aidan Sheehan, and the band Lost Dog Found. Special thanks to: the Community Church of Sebastopol for providing the venue and volunteers, and the many local businesses that donated food, drinks and raffle items.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Plumfund, in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. In the series, we'll feature inspirational stories of giving and receiving from users and friends of Plumfund, the free crowdfunding site. You'll find one post every weekday in November leading up to Giving Tuesday. To learn more about this campaign or start your own, visit Plumfund.com.

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