The Origin Story of Rebuild Wine Country

The intensity of the north bay fires was numbing the morning of October 9th. Accurate news was scarce and hard to come by, our family and friends were on high-alert for evacuation, some escaping their homes 20 minutes before they burnt to the ground with just the clothes on their backs, and countless others were disrupted – the place we call home was under attack.

Our team had been in constant contact with one another, as well as with our friends and family to make sure everyone in the extended Senses community was safe. But we wanted to do more. We couldn’t sit still.

Inspired by the community’s response and countless offers to help, the team at Senses – including our Co-Founders Chris Strieter, Max Thieriot and Myles Lawrence-Briggs, and General Manager Chelsea Boss – launched Rebuild Wine Country: a crowdfunding effort in collaboration with local Habitat for Humanity affiliates to help those who need it most rebuild their homes.

We knew that the recovery would be long-term and that raising awareness and funds for rebuilding would be instrumental to those efforts. We also knew that this is a digital age and wanted to maximize the reach of our campaign so we began to look into fundraising efforts the next day.

It took about two days to figure out how to execute a clean campaign that was tax-deductible, without fees and unnecessary admin costs. We also wanted to help all of wine country, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Lake and Mendocino Counties. This was trickier than expected since most charity entities operate under strict bylaws that limit how and where they can spend funds. A close friend, Ché Casul, suggested his group, Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County, as a fiscal sponsor of our efforts to help distribute raised funds across all of wine country through their affiliates. This created the perfect opportunity.

We built a website and launched the campaign through YouCaring (0% fees) with all funds directly collected by Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County. They then redistribute funds to their local Habitat for Humanity affiliates as a proportion of structures destroyed by the fires in their respective county. This combined with local Habitat for Humanity affiliates solved our needs to get donations into the right hands as soon as possible without overhead fees or tax issues. Overnight, friends of ours throughout Napa and Sonoma Counties, offered to help in the Rebuild Wine Country efforts. We had over 18 volunteers within days and they’ve been incredible.

By the end of Thursday, October 12th, we raised $5k and over $40k through the weekend. A plethora of volunteers, industry support, partnership opportunities and donations found us. We raised our goal to $500k and soon to $5M with the goal to rebuild at least 50 homes and repair countless others. This is just the beginning and we are so thankful to have an opportunity to help those who need it.

Chris Strieter, Co-Founder &  Chelsea Boss, General Manager