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Madera Unified helps out Creek Fire victims

Courtesy of Tim Riché

Madera Linkage Foundation president Tim Riché hands Sierra Unified School District superintendent Alan Harris a bag full of gift cards and other goodies donated by Madera Unified School District employees and students.


As the Creek Fire raged in Madera County’s backyard, Madera Unified School District needed to make a difference. The adopted motto of We Believe does not just end for the city of Madera, but also for the students in surrounding communities.

Superintendent Todd Lile and Madera Linkage Foundation President Tim Riché decided that they would invite local district employees to donate gift cards to families affected by the fire. The idea to partner with school districts in the mountain community and allow their staff to share with students that have lost homes. A goal of $6,000 dollars was made.

“Watching it on the news and seeing the smoke in the air, I knew we needed to do something and thought we had a great way of making a difference,” said Lile. “Madera Unified has so many people that care and never mind stepping up, it is an honor to be associated with so many of our staff.”

Teachers and staff both rallied. Schools began collecting as well as departments. For instance, the Information Technology department collected money and one of their staff went and bought cards from Walmart. Some teachers pitched the idea to students and a teacher at Alpha collected one dollar bills and drawings some of the students made. So many stories of why people gave and how so many of us wanted to help. A couple of the staff had family that lost everything in the other fires and the Paradise fire so they understood the hardship of starting over.

Also, local businesses became part dropping off cards. Murillo Construction dropped off over a $1,000 worth cards to help the cause. Many former employees and community members saw the story on ABC30 and dropped off cards to support their neighbors.

Finally all the cards were tallied up and $12,627 dollars was collected.

Riché had the opportunity to drive them up to Chawanakee and Sierra Unified school districts on Oct. 26.

Superintendent Darren Sylvia at Chawanakee received $4,000, which he said will probably go mainly to families around the North Fork Area that lost homes.

Superintendent Alan Harris at Sierra Unified received the rest of the donation. He is working with Big Creek School District, as well, and his district has suffered the most loss from the largest fire in California history. Besides his students, he is also working with staff that have lost homes and are displaced.

“It is really a marathon of recovery and it will not be over anytime soon,” said Alan Harris. “We have our work cut out for us but together we can make a difference.”

The school district is still collecting gift cards and can be dropped off at 1902 Howard Road in Madera, CA 93637. If you have any questions or would like to be involved in helping Madera Unified students, visit ​​ or by emailing


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