The smoke and embers are gone from Napa and Santa Rosa, but so too are the cameras and news reports – which means, generally speaking, that everybody not living there thinks everything is OK.
Meredith Eggers knows better. She knows the devastation firsthand. Not as well as somebody there who has lost everything, perhaps, but she has seen the effects, the lasting impact.
Meredith is the wife of Barry Eggers, co-founder of Lightspeed Venture Partners, who recently became famous in the Valley for making an initial seed investment in Snapchat – and urged St. Francis High School in Mountain View to be a small co-investor, which earned the school more than $25 million on a $15,000 investment.
The Eggerses purchased raw land in Healdsburg a few years ago with the intent of developing a family estate. They got to know the people there, the community. When the fires swept through so suddenly and mercilessly, engulfing entire communities and leaving thousands without anything, it hit the couple, who realize how fortunate they have been, particularly hard.
“There were hurricanes and floods and this thing and that thing, and we both said we felt we could do something to make a difference,” Meredith said. “And it is not always just about sending money.”
Meredith spearheaded what is now called Re-source. It started as a grassroots call for help from well-to-do friends in Los Altos, Portola Valley, Woodside, Palo Alto and Pebble Beach. The idea was to make those who have lost everything whole again by acquiring and distributing quality items like the ones they had in their homes before flames raged through. The outpouring was immediate.
“There was such a huge response,” Meredith said. “What people told us is that the thing you are doing is giving us a way to be useful because we don’t know how to be useful otherwise. This was a way to engage a lot of people who want to help, and create a conduit to those who need the help.”
Meredith said they got 350 cashmere sweaters the first week. She, and the volunteers who are helping, filled a box truck full of clothes that you’d see worn in the restaurants of Pebble Beach. They asked people to donate suitcases so that they could build “Care-Cases” with the items instead of handing them out like a third-world country, aimed at helping families, she said, get over the mental hurdle of accepting charity.
Meredith recalled one girl who was filling out her college applications when the fires stole her computer. The girl was frightened she would not get them in on time. Re-source got her a computer the next day. Last week, someone donated a car. In all, the organization has helped nearly 100 families start to rebuild their lives.
“So many families have said to us in the last couple weeks, ‘If you watch the news, it is supposed to be better, and it is not better, not even close,’” Meredith said.
Married to a venture capitalist, Meredith is using this ongoing experience to help build an online platform for others in communities across the country who experience similar catastrophes. The difference, she said with pride, is that this platform is not meant to make a dime – the anti-VC, if you will.
“We really started to feel like there are way too many people who make money off people when there is crisis in this country,” Meredith said. “We want people who have experienced similar situations in other communities to be able to use this platform to help people without taking 5 percent off the top. When you can take all the skill sets that build successful organizations and do good … then you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t make money. How fun is it to give more instead of trying to make more?”