The catastrophe hits Holly Rickett near her home – professionally and personally.
Rickett, an emergency response legal expert in the Sonoma County Counsel’s office, has lived and worked helping wildfire victims.
In 2017, it housed 15 evacuees from the devastating October wildfires that killed 24 people, destroyed more than 110,000 acres and destroyed nearly 7,000 buildings. Firefighters kept a line about a mile from their home during the largest inferno — the Tubbs Fire, which alone caused $1.3 billion in damage.
“I knocked on my door,” she said, recalling the nightly frightened friends who showed up at her home. “I understand the need – emotionally and physically – to have protection. It means so much more than a tent over your head. So much more. I (once) came to this from an intellectual level, but now I understand it from an emotional level.
She experienced a similar scenario in her living room during the 2020 glass fire while taking in eight evacuees.
That’s why Rickett, 57, said she was honored to join the 14-member board of ShelterBox, an international organization known as the first line of defense when it comes to providing shelter and other relief supplies like solar lanterns and blankets for victims of a variety of disasters ranging from floods and fires to typhoons and earthquakes.
ShelterBox was founded in 2000 and is based in England. ShelterBox has helped more than 2 million people affected by 300 disasters in nearly 100 countries, the organization reported. It includes war-torn Syria, Yemen and Ethiopia, and the Philippines after Typhoon Rai devastated the country last December. More recently, it has dispatched crews and supplies to Ukraine to help with the refugee crisis.
Rickett, who also teaches law at Empire College, said the region has endured a lot with its role in the county where she has lived for over three decades, yet it has come a long way.
“Sonoma County’s emergency preparedness, response and recovery has truly transformed — by 100%. We’re better prepared and prepared,” she told Business Journal. “Every disaster is different. Every community is different.”
Rickett, who has worked for the county for over a decade, was “drawn” to ShelterBox because of his frontline work.
“I like their mission. I like that the organization is doing one thing and they are doing it well,” she said. “It’s a ‘first-in’ organization. They go in and are literally there to provide protection.”
“We are very happy for them. Holly has been instrumental in the last five disasters[in Sonoma County],” said Debbie Latham, who also works with Rickett as an assistant in the Sonoma County Counsel’s office. “She fits perfectly into the ShelterBox Board of Directors.”
US officials from ShelterBox agreed.
“Holly brings invaluable real-world experience to exactly what ShelterBox does: provide emergency relief to thousands of people displaced from their homes by natural disasters,” said Kerri Murray, president of ShelterBox USA, in a statement on the appointment of the assistant district attorney 2th of June. “We know Holly will play an important role as ShelterBox continues to grow and provide more lifesaving assistance around the world.”
Even when Rickett doesn’t serve or sit on a board of directors, she’s active — on a paddle board or at a poker table.
The mother of two grown children plays competitive poker and hopes to help organize an online poker tournament to benefit ShelterBox USA.
Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, manufacturing, technology, energy, transportation, agriculture, and banking and finance. For 27 years, Susan has worked for various publications including the North County Times, the Tahoe Daily Tribune and the Lake Tahoe News. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or [email protected]