When deadly wildfires tore through Sonoma Valley in 2017, a local nonprofit called La Luz Center stepped in to help residents who were displaced or without power. It provided food, financial support, and Spanish-language information to its predominately Latino clientele.

“People would come in, they’d have a hot meal, they would grab donated items,” says Sandy Sanchez, the center’s director of programs. But she says after the flames were extinguished, people’s recovery process had only just begun.

Many of La Luz’s clientele lost jobs. So Sanchez says that as the surrounding community started to rebuild, “We thought, OK, there’s going to be an increase of jobs in construction. … How can we prepare our community to line up for those jobs?”

So the center started the Building Trades Training Program. It’s a bilingual course that prepares low-income people and those displaced by the fires for entry-level construction jobs. So far, more than 100 people have participated.

The center has also started offering mental health counseling. Sanchez says it’s a holistic long-term approach to recovery that will help the community become more resilient as disasters grow more common.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.