After she lost everything in wildfire, U of M grad helps homeless who had less

Sharon Zimmerman, a University of Minnesota graduate, couldn’t sleep one night in early October. So, up late (or early), she went outside for a respite. That’s when she came face to face with the “Tubbs fire” in Santa Rosa, a sudden wind-whipped wildfire that wiped out the California suburb.

Residents barely had enough time to process what was happening before the fire obliterated their neighborhoods.

Her son was sobbing because his cat was hiding somewhere. He didn’t want to leave without his pet. “I put my arms around him and said, ‘I can’t replace you,'” she says in this video released over the weekend.

She and her husband, Greg, are among those who’ve helped a group to help kids recover from losing just about everything in the California wildfires.

It’s been hard on families, no doubt. “So imagine if you were alone. Imagine if you didn’t come from a strong family. Imagine if you didn’t have people that you knew of that you could reach out to who cared for you, who would offer you a place to live.”

In this space over the years, we’ve often paused to wonder where one starts after losing everything in a fire or disaster.

“We’ve lost everything we ever had,” Zimmerman says. “But we had a lot to start with, and we’ve had the support of family and friends and, frankly, we had insurance. But I worry about the young people who don’t have that.”

“We need to be there for them,” she said.

Zimmerman, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual, helped the organization, Social Advocates for Youth, which built a 63-bed “dream center” in the community for homeless youth.

It survived the inferno.

(h/t: Amy C. Rea)