Santa Rosa donation center closing after multiple break-ins since North Bay Fires

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A donation center that opened after the North Bay fires ravaged the community of Santa Rosa is no more.

The donation site closed Wednesday after having to deal with multiple break-ins this month.

Volunteers at the Hidden Valley Fire Relief site in downtown Santa Rosa are packing things up and clearing out items that were donated to fire victims.

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"This was more than just a donation center," said Jenica Leonard, one of the organizers with the relief group. "People came here to meet and hang out and just to see each other and feel some sense of normalcy."

The site opened in October to help families with children at Hidden Valley Elementary. Almost 150 kids attending the school lost everything when their homes burned down in the Santa Rosa wildfires.

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Since then, hundreds of victims have walked through the center, picking out much needed items to help rebuild their lives.

The need not as great as great as before but people were still coming by.

"We did have good foot traffic, 5-10 families on Saturday," recalled Leonard.

The facility for all the good it was doing also attracted some bad actors.

Windows have been boarded up, doors replaced after four break-ins this month. The latest happened Christmas morning when someone broke the front window. It's unclear if anything was taken from inside.

"With all the recent vandalism, we just felt the need to reduce the exposure to the building due to the expenses that keep adding up to replace the broken window," said volunteer Nancy Lanz.

The property manager says the damage could cost $3,000 so have decided to close down shop to keep from being targeted.

"I don't think there was any ill-will towards us personally but I do think it underscores a critical need in Santa Rosa, for people who are local who don't have what they need," said Leonard.

Despite the closure, organizers will continue to serve the families affected by the fires and ship the remaining items to other donation sites.

Click here if you'd like to make a donation to Hidden Valley Relief.

Click here for more information on how to register for FEMA Disaster Relief.

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on the North Bay Fires.
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