Sonoma County winegrape growers raise nearly $1M to help farmworkers

The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation (SCGGF), in a partnership with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, has created what it believes to be the only industry fund that directly supports its own employees affected by the recent fire disaster.

To date the Housing Support Fund for Ag Employees has raised over $750,000 and recently received a $200,000 grant from the Redwood Credit Union to directly benefit those who keep one of the region’s most important business sectors viable.

“To date we have identified almost 200 Ag families, regardless of documentation, impacted by the fires and have begun to distribute funds to those displaced by the fires, who incurred damage to their homes or lost wages,” said Karissa Kruse, executive director of the Sonoma Grape Growers Foundation and president of Sonoma County winegrowers.

The funds are being distributed in the form of rent support and as Visa gift cards to purchase new household items, food and supplies.

“We already notified several Ag families that their rent for the next two years will be covered by this housing fund. In addition, we purchased three recreation vehicles for Ag families whose houses burned.”

She said, “Thanks to the generosity of contributors that touched the hearts of the entire Ag community, we wanted to do another unprecedented thing – bestowing all SCGGF donors with the annual Nick Frey Community Contributions Award.”

This is the first time the directors of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission decided to recognize all those who gave to the Housing Support Fund at a ceremony held during the annual meeting on Jan.11. This award is typically given only to a non-grape grower who makes a significant contribution to grape growing and agriculture on behalf of the entire Sonoma County grape growing community.

“I want to thank the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau for working so quickly to create a fund, including a website and Go Fund Me page within hours, and also for distributing the funds within weeks to ensure that Ag families impacted by fires were receiving immediate support during an extremely stressful time,” Kruse added.

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