In the wake of so much tragedy over the past two weeks, Colusa County has come together to support the families of the five victims who died in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 5 on Jan. 7, and Karen Garcia – the sister of one of the crash victims, who went missing the following day and officers believe was the victim of homicide.

Fundraisers popped up everywhere around the county – organized by friends, employers, family, and strangers, too – and thousands of dollars have been raised.

Williams High School athletes raised more than $8,000 in a boot drive on Jan. 13.
A number of WHS athletes were out helping again at the fundraiser this past Saturday in the parking lot of Pina’s Juice Bar, organized by Janet Pina, Selene Tapia, and the family of Jessica and Karen Garcia. The fundraiser grew as others chipped in, organizing a raffle and bringing additional food items to be sold for the cause.

Williams High School teacher and basketball Coach Tony Hermann was astounded at the continued support of the community. He said that he spoke with a colleague at school after the boot drive, who was worried that the community was ‘tapped out.’ That wasn’t the case, as last weekend’s turnout proved.

“I mean, look at this!” Hermann said, pointing to the long line of people waiting to buy tickets for lunch. “In my 22 years here, I haven’t seen anything like this. I’m super proud of how the community has come together for these families. I don’t know that I’ll see anything like this again.”

Williams residents Carlos and Juanita Navarro were among those standing in line for lunch tickets, Juanita said he wasn’t surprised by the response from the community.

“This community always gets together, because we all know each other,” she said.
On Jan. 16, Colusa’s Madison Rainsbarger was in front of Rite Aid selling Koozies for the family of her good friend, Raquel Lopez-Valencia, to help them pay for funeral expenses.

She raised over $1,000.

At The Refuge the same day, husband and wife Abel and Kiki Godoy sold street tacos, raising more than $4,700.

The Refuge event started small: Abel and Kiki received a $100 tip from a customer while they were tending bar at The Refuge, and decided to pay it forward by using it as seed money for the fundraiser. When that customer found out what they planned to do with the money, he doubled down.

“That started a flame in us,in a sense,” Godoy said. “We started organizing it, and it blew up when it got shared a lot of times Facebook.”

The Godoy’s received help from friends and family – both in time and monetary donations – to help make the event work. The money, they hope, will help ease the hardship for the families of the six young Colusa County residents who were lost in recent weeks.

“You want to let the loved ones go with their proper burial, and you want to relieve some of the stress off of the parents that are mourning their loss,” Kiki Godoy added. “They can’t really mourn their loss when they can’t figure out how they’re actually going to lay their loved ones to rest.”

For Kiki Godoy, the recent tragedies and the community’s response have been a stark reminder of what’s important in life.

“Everybody gets so stuck in their daily life routine,” she said. “We need to stop and take a minute and come together. It was a very beautiful outpouring of love and emotion, and everybody taking a step back to share their memories and their stories, and to help one another in a time of need.”■

Brian Pearson is the former Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects included reporting local government and the sports page.