After each deadly and destructive wildfire of the past few years, Mary Stompe and the nonprofit she heads responded like so many others, collecting food, clothing, gift cards and money for fire survivors.

For the Tubbs and Camp fires, Stompe helped set up distribution centers to give away gift cards and other items. But fire survivors’ biggest need, she said, was not being met.

“It was clear that the No. 1 item needed was housing and not things,” said Stompe, executive director of PEP Housing, a Petaluma-based organization that provides supportive housing for seniors.

Stompe and others at PEP began dreaming of a safe, affordable housing community for seniors who had lost everything in the fires. Now, that dream is about to become reality.

PEP, which stands for Petaluma Ecumenical Properties, is under contract to purchase the Scottish Rite Masonic Center on Acacia Lane in east Santa Rosa, with the goal of building 20 studio apartments for seniors who lost homes in the wildfires. PEP Housing has put down a significant down payment, and the deal is expected to close Aug. 15, Stompe said.

“We’ve been trying to build housing since the Tubbs fire, hitting one brick wall after another,” she said.

Those efforts included placing trailers at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa and beginning talks with the county over use of a vacant building at the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home. But she said talks with the county were going too slowly, and when the Scottish Rite Masonic Center became available she jumped at the opportunity.

The site, located off Highway 12, is adjacent to PEP’s Acacia Lane Senior Apartments, a 44-unit senior housing complex that opened eight years ago. PEP purchased that property from the owners of the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, the Santa Rosa Lodge of Perfection No. 11.

A representative of the Scottish Rite Masonic Center declined to comment on the latest sale because the deal has not yet closed.

PEP’s plans for the 2.8-acre site include a complete remodel of the 20,000-square-foot main building and event center.

Stompe said space in the main building currently occupied by an auditorium and an event room could be converted to 20 studio apartments.

She said the large dining room would be converted into an event hall adjacent to the existing kitchen, which would remain the same.

That event hall, as well as planned meeting rooms, could be used by members of the community who currently use the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, she said.

“Half the building will be an event center and the other half will be senior housing,” she said.

Stompe said the housing portion of the project will be named after Linda Tunis, a 69-year-old woman who died when the Tubbs fire consumed all but a few homes at the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park.

Tunis’ daughter, Jessica, was unable to get across town to help her mother.

Jessica Tunis, who is the property manager of Acacia Lane Senior Apartments, was helping evacuate her residents on the night of the fires and wasn’t aware of how close the fire was near her mother’s home until it was too late.

She said she’s deeply touched by Stompe’s decision to name the new project after her mother. “It’s incredibly sweet and meaningful,” she said.

She said there are currently 300 people on the waiting list for Acacia Lane apartments.

“The people that are moving in now have been on the waiting list for five years,” she said. “It was a crisis before the fires, now it’s worse.”

Tunis said she hopes some of the seniors who lost homes at Journey’s End will be able to get one of the 20 studio apartments.

The Tubbs fire destroyed three-quarters of the 160 mobile homes at Journey’s End.

PEP’s project also includes the conversion of a smaller, second building into administrative offices. PEP plans to move its main offices there from Petaluma.

The entire project, including the purchase of the property, site improvements, interior construction of apartments and offices, is estimated to cost $6.4 million, Stompe said.

PEP is putting in $634,000 of its own funds for the purchase and remodel of its future office space.

The organization also will direct $366,000 of its funds toward the senior housing project. Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente has donated $1 million toward the housing project.

Alena Wall, Kaiser’s regional community benefit manager, said the gift is part of Kaiser’s focus on creating and preserving affordable housing, particularly for vulnerable seniors. She said 7% of the county’s 83,000 seniors are living in poverty.

Tarek Salaway, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser in Marin and Sonoma counties, said in a statement that housing stability is an integral part of a community’s “total health.”

“Part of this commitment to our community is the importance of supporting our seniors who have been displaced due to the Tubbs fire,” he said.

“We are pleased to learn of the new location for this essential housing project and remain committed to PEP Housing as they move the new development to the Scottish Rite Center on Acacia Lane.”

PEP’s housing project will lead to the displacement of the event center’s existing tenants, including the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild, which has been holding meetings at the Acacia Lane site for several decades.

“We need the housing, but it’s a hardship for us,” said Genelle Voorhees, president of the quilt guild.

Voorhees said the guild keeps a library of 3,500 quilting books and publications at the site that may now have to go into storage. The guild has arranged to rent space at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building but is looking for a space comparable to the one at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center.

In addition to the $1 million from Kaiser, PEP has received $50,000 from the Rotary District 5130 and $250,000 from the Bethlehem Foundation. PEP has launched a capital campaign to raise another $4 million to complete the project.

“We’re hoping to start construction Nov. 1,” Stompe said.

“Ideally, we want to have all the money in by then.”

For more information about the project, visit www.pephousing.org/donate.