San Mateo Co. nonprofit annihilated by 'wall of mud' from storms, begs for public's help

"It was like someone opened up a dam and into the house," says cleanup volunteer Jeremy Berthiaume.

Dion Lim Image
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
San Mateo Co. nonprofit annihilated by 'wall of mud' from storms
EMBED <>More Videos

Venture Retreat Center in San Mateo County that serves to heal others is in need of help themselves after being battered by recent rain and mudslides.

PESCADERO, Calif. (KGO) -- A nonprofit retreat center in San Mateo County that serves to heal others is now in need of help themselves after being battered by recent rain and mudslides.

Set among the majestic redwoods of Pescadero, Venture Retreat Center is a nonprofit for those in search of a slice of peace, in an otherwise chaotic world.

Bay Area storm live updates: Mudslide halts ACE train in Niles Canyon

"It's been here since 1965 and there have been so many wonderful healing groups here," says Janelle Bartlett who volunteers her time running the center. She never imagined the chaos that unfolded here, New Year's Eve.

"I didn't expect a mudslide. I've never experiences anything like this, the power, the force, and how quickly things can be normal and all of a sudden, complete tragedy," she says, clad in rubber boots which are caked with mud.

VIDEO: Drone video captures aftermath of landslide that washed out part of Hwy 1 near Big Sur

In what felt like an instant, the storm's wrath mixed with mud, penetrated their main lodge and surrounding grounds. It even displaced a visiting group and caused power outages and water main breaks that took days to restore.

"It was like someone opened up a dam and into the house," says Bartlett's brother and volunteer Jeremy Berthiaume.

Janelle describes the grounds as a "river of mud" and shows us the 6-foot deep pool that is now filled with mud and debris. Toppled furniture litter the one serene deck area where guests gathered for outdoor meals and meetings.

Armed with whatever tools they can find, volunteers have been painstakingly digging out and salvaging whatever is left, which isn't much. And like the nearly two weeks of relentless rain, the task at hand feels never-ending. The thigh-high mud still visible on the walls of the main lodge in places, despite non-stop cleanup.

VIDEO: Experts explain why CA is prone to mudslides, what areas are most vulnerable

"It's overwhelming. So much work to be done, shoveling. We're just shocked," says Jeremy.

Janelle is doubtful insurance will cover much, if anything. With the impending rain in the forecast, can't wait.

"We need lots of hands, lots of bodies and finances. We don't survive without help from somewhere," she says.

The retreat center has since started a GoFundMe to help with the cleanup. They make this plea to the public watching.

"Please, help us."

The video in the media player above is not related to the current story. The ABC7 News Bay Area 24/7 streaming channel allows you to see news throughout the day.