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Impact Spotlight: Meet Jean and Jim

"I got up that morning at 8:30 and looked outside and it was pitch black," said Jean Bauman, a retiree who lived in Paradise, California. "I went back into the bedroom and I said to my husband Jim, 'You've got to get out of bed.'"

At first, Jim and Jean were hoping the Camp Fire would be contained before reaching their small home – a secluded one-floor cottage nestled amongst towering California Foothill Pines.

"It was still three ridges over that morning," Jim recalled. "That's a long way away."

But the fire moved fast, devouring an acre of land – an entire football field – every second.

An hour later, fiery chunks of debris were pelting the couple's home.

"I went outside and the sky was glowing red all around us," Jim said. "We started grabbing pictures off the wall and got out of there."

On November 8, 2018, the Camp Fire incinerated nearly all of Paradise, including the Bauman's home.

The inferno left nothing but brick chimneys and charred sludge in its wake; the once-green rolling hills yellowed and ashen.

"We lost fifty years of everything in that house," Jean said. "It's numbing."

Since the fire, Jim and Jean have been living in an apartment about 90 miles from Paradise – and they're essentially starting from scratch.

"We've been retired for about a year and we have fire insurance," Jim said. "But we never expected something like this to happen. We didn't really have a Plan B."

As the couple navigates insurance to begin rebuilding their house, they're finding that there are far more out-of-pocket expenses than they'd ever imagined.

"There are a lot of bills that aren't covered by insurance," Jim said. "For example, we have to keep paying our water bill at the house even though there's nothing there."

And despite having some savings and never needing help before, the couple recently reached out for assistance after losing everything.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, a member of the Feeding America network, was there. After the fire, the food bank began a mobile food distribution just a few miles from Paradise.

"It's nice coming to a place like this where people are actually just trying to help us," Jean said.

Jim and Jean have a long road ahead of them. After clearing their land, getting insurance approvals and confirming their property is safe, it could be 10 years before they can rebuild their home. But they are resilient. And they're in it for the long haul.

"Anything that we can save on food will help us rebuild our home faster," Jim said. "This food is a gift. It's uplifting. It gives us hope."​

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