MALDEN, Wash. — While families in Malden rebuild their lives after the devastating September wildfires, a Christmas tree lighting and a charitable project has brought back some sense of normalcy to the community.
Around 80% of the homes in Malden and 75% of the homes in Pine City were lost in the Babb fire last September.
Kristen Cisielskie lost her farm in the blaze.
“We had our duck business, we had about 320 ducks," she explained. “Only 10 made it so that was a hard hit.”
While many in the community remain hopeful for better days, much of the work is still ahead of them.
Providing some joy for kids and families who lost everything this year is a top priority for the Innovia Foundation this season.
“We need to continue to support them knowing that recovery is a long-term deal. It’ll take months and years to rebuild this community,” said Aaron McMurray, Innovia Foundation Chief Strategy Officer.
The Innovia Foundation is a non-profit that works to improve access to education, promote health and wellbeing, support arts and culture, create economic opportunity and enhance quality of life.
This year, Innovia launched A Pine Creek Christmas: Celebrating Malden and Pine City. The project aimed to fulfill the wish lists of families impacted by the wildfires.
Within 48 hours of announcing the initiative, every one of the families was already sponsored, guaranteeing families a Christmas Day meal along with presents underneath the tree.
The foundation is now accepting gift cards for Christmas dinners and gift baskets for families.
Scott Hokonson is a Malden resident and Director of Recovery Operations. He said the Christmas tree lighting was a good opportunity for the community to reconnect.
“I get to see my neighbors and I get to have a cup of coffee with them, said Hokonson after the tree lighting. “That’s rare these days, but it becomes even more special after losing your home and all your relatives and friends' homes.”
“God’s still on the throne, he ain’t going nowhere so we’re good, “ Cisielskie said. “We’re all coming together and we’ve got a lot of support and a lot of love. It keeps us going.”