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August 25, 2023

Medical Lake

Innovia Foundation emergency fund raises $700,000 in less than a week for wildfire victims

More than $700,000 has been raised in less than a week since the Innovia Foundation launched the Eastern Washington Wildfire Emergency Response Fund to help victims of area fires that broke out Aug. 18.

The fund started Monday with $200,000 seeded: $50,000 each from the Washington Trust Bank, Spokane Teachers Credit Union, Premera Blue Cross and the Innovia Foundation itself.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, the fund had raised an additional $500,000 from 2,286 individual donors. The average donation was approximately $150.

“Donations ranged from $5 to the $50,000 put in by each of the four partners. It’s been an incredible response. We have seen astounding generosity from our community, ” Innovia Foundation CEO Shelly O’Quinn said in an interview, noting she had been moved by the many individuals who came to make donations in person at Innovia’s downtown Spokane office.

On Friday, a small boy came in person with his mother to donate $125 he earned over the summer.

“He quietly brought in an envelope, and on the envelope, it said, ‘lemonade stand,’ ” O’Quinn remembered. “He raised $125 from his lemonade stand and brought it in to give it to support the fire victims. That is the type of incredible generosity we’ve seen.”

Fudgemaker Marc Connally stopped by Innovia Friday afternoon to drop off $350 and a lot of chocolate to the workers processing the many checks coming in. Connally had been giving away his fudge to benefit the fund.

“I’m a nerdy retired engineer who loves to cook. So I wanted to use my fudge to help,” Connally said before leaving – promising to come back with more money.

Money raised by the fund will be expended in several stages of recovery. With both the Gray and Oregon Road fires in Spokane ongoing, the community is still in the first phase of immediate disaster response.

“With our immediate response, we’re working with some of our nonprofit partners to get dollars into communities,” O’Quinn said. This includes working with the Salvation Army, Red Cross or other local organizations to provide direct services to those who have been displaced by the fires.

Once both fires have ended and the damage is fully assessed, Innovia will move toward more long-term assistance by partnering with other local organizations.

The Foundation will not work directly with victims – only with organizations that have confirmed families are legitimate wildfire victims.

“There’s a lot of bad actors out there,” O’Quinn said. “Every organization has received phone calls from people claiming to have lost everything in the fire and wanting money, but they actually haven’t.”

For this reason, O’Quinn recommends wildfire victims register with the Red Cross to be eligible for assistance. Those contributing funds should be careful to whom they donate.

“If you contribute to the wildfire response fund, we’re working with our community partners to get the dollars out the door to those families that are truly in need,” O’Quinn said. “We’re not writing a check to the families directly, but we are working in partnership with nonprofits like Salvation Army and others who … can verify the needs of those families. And … it’s just really important, because the donors want to make sure that they’re impacting families that lost their home.”

Donations to the Eastern Washington Wildfire Emergency Response Fund can be made at or by mailing a check payable to Innovia Foundation with “Wildfire Emergency Response Fund” in the memo. Checks should be mailed to Innovia Foundation, 818. W. Riverside Ave., Suite 650, Spokane, WA 99201. Donations are tax deductible.

Letters sent in to the Innovia foundation for support.