Marion County opens sign-ups for volunteers to help wildfire evacuees, plus more ways to help

Nicole Vanleerdam, right, and Hecto Martinez, of Marion Estates Independent Living, set up cots for their residents to use overnight after evacuating from Sublimity at the Oregon State Fairgrounds on Tuesday, September 8. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Update, Sept. 14: The sign up link below is no longer current. Volunteers can sign up for shifts at the Oregon State Fairgrounds through Marion County HERE.

Update, Sept. 9, 2020, 6 p.m.:

Marion County has opened sign-ups for volunteers at the state fairgrounds, with shifts starting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10. Tasks include unloading donations and staffing the pantry. Volunteers with a food handler’s permit are also needed. More information is available on the sign up page here.

Keizer Chamber of Commerce staff, board members and volunteers are staffing the livestock and animal shelter at the fairgrounds and currently do not need additional volunteers. Danielle Bethell, the chamber’s executive director, said they’ll share information about any needed supplies on the chamber’s Facebook page.

Original story below:

Salem residents wanting to help their neighbors displaced by the Santiam Canyon wildfires don’t need to show up at the state fairgrounds.

Marion County, Red Cross Cascades and other organizations working on the response said they don’t need volunteers yet – but people can still help by donating requested items, cash or signing up to volunteer if a need arises.

“Right now, everyone is really scrambling to get their feet underneath them,” said Liz Schraeder, development director for United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley.

Marion County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley said they’re set on people to help care for livestock at the Oregon State Fairgrounds for now. The county will post on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page if volunteers are needed in the future.

In Polk County, neighbors began showing up yesterday to help evacuees without any prompting by the county, Commissioner Craig Pope said. They’ve set up cots and donation tables, and are caring for about 30 horses, 79 sheep, 4 goats and assorted llamas, chickens, ducks and rabbits and dogs.

“It’s quite incredible actually. We’ve activated nothing,” Pope said. They’ve let Marion County officials know Polk County neighbors are willing to help, he said, but so far there’s no formal call for volunteers.

The Red Cross was able to put every family that needed shelter in a hotel or other accommodation Tuesday night, said Dale Kunce, Red Cross Cascades CEO.

He said the organization will likely announce an expedited training for local volunteers in the coming days.

In the meantime, here’s how you can help.

Supply donations

United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley and the Salem Chamber of Commerce are collecting donations for evacuees.

Because of the Covid pandemic, items should be new and unopened.

United Way’s needs as of Sept. 9 are:

-sleeping bags

-air mattresses


-bottled water

-travel shampoos, lotion, soaps



-prepackaged food items (granola bars, etc)

-fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas)





-very gently used clothing – all sizes, all genders

Donations can be dropped off at the United Way office, 455 Bliler Ave. NE, until 5:30 p.m., or the Salem Chamber of Commerce, 1110 Commercial St. NE. Check the United Way Facebook page for updates on needed items.

Monetary donations

Cash allows organizations to buy needed items in bulk and meet specific needs for evacuees. 

The Keizer Chamber has a fire relief fund to buy needed supplies. Donations can be made on the chamber website.

United Way has established a fire relief fund. Donate here.

The Red Cross takes monetary donations online. Donors can specify a use for their money, including requesting the money be used for local needs.

Meet future volunteer needs

You can sign up to help if people are needed in the future.

People interested in volunteering with the Red Cross can sign up online. Training typically takes several weeks, but Red Cross Cascades is working on a faster local training for wildfire-related help.

To help with future United Way relief efforts, email [email protected].

For future Marion County needs, keep an eye on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Salem Reporter will also inform the community of large volunteer needs that arise as we learn of them.

NEED HELP? If you or your organization needs volunteers to help with local wildfire relief efforts, please contact Salem Reporter at in[email protected] so we can provide updated information.

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Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.