STAYTON — On Sept. 18, the communities in the Santiam Canyon experienced significant relief from the heavy and hazardous air quality after a much-needed storm overnight.

“There were days when the smoke was so bad that we were unable to see across the street here at the Immaculate Conception parish office,” said Ramon Camacho, director of communications at Immaculate Conception. “After the rainstorm, visibility increased significantly: The change was like day and night.”

The communities in the valley have united through the tragedy.

“On the community level, it has been so heartwarming to see how everyone has come together and responded to the call to discipleship for our brethren in need,” said Camacho.

Both Immaculate Conception and the local Knights of Columbus, St. Anthony Council #2439, are members of the Santiam Integration Team, a program run by the local hospital that helps facilitate resources and information for individuals and families to efficiently and effectively benefit those most in need. The integration team established the official local wildfire relief fund called the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund. 

The local Knights of Columbus council manages a building called Anthony Hall, which has become the official donation and distribution operation for the relief fund. Immaculate Conception has opened its doors to be a donation drop-off center. 

“The distribution and donation operation has been a huge undertaking and many of our parishioners are helping volunteer at Anthony Hall,” said Camacho. That includes both priests, Father Luan Nguyen, pastor, and Father Jossey Kuriakose, parochial vicar.

As of Sept. 28, Anthony Hall is housing local county and Santiam Integration Team Mobile offices and is now considered a Multi-Agency Resource Center. FEMA also has staff on site at Anthony Hall. 

Camacho reported that parishioners have been financially generous. As of Sept. 28, $31,990 was raised for the Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund. 

“2020 has been quite the year, but the faith our parishioners continue to demonstrate has been so powerful to watch,” said Camacho. “Amid the obstacles placed on our lives, the church has indeed been deployed.”