By Betsy Robertson
If you’ve never experienced a home fire or had property devastated by a wildfire, you might not know what this image represents.
It’s a simple tool, made from wood and wire mesh, put together in batches by community members and volunteers. But what they offer is so much more than the sum of their parts. Sifters like these are used to find personal belongings, often valuables or precious memories, by separating them from the soot, ash and damage that fires create.
That’s where this story begins. With the creation and donation of 114 sifters, built on Saturday, August 21, 2021, in Bonney Lake, Washington with no particular destination in mind. But the timing of their creation couldn’t have been more ideal. Within hours of the community event to put them together, every one of those sifters (and more) were needed in Eastern Washington.
Todd Dole — who helped put those sifters together — is well known in his Pierce County community. He has served in appointed public office and has some pretty great friends, including Ady Brower and Jessica Bennion — fellow members of the Beautify Bonney Lake board. The 20-year-old service-driven organization regularly takes on projects throughout and around the city.
Dole also knows a local Eagle Scout, Michael Rowley, who he teamed up with to build the sifters as a community project. With the help of these Bonney Lake friends and many more, the 114 sifters were handcrafted with nails, wood, and screening. Dole says, “it was a privilege to do it.”
Being able to help was personal for Dole, who experienced two house fires growing up, and who wished to help other families during one of the most challenging times of their lives. He remembers that the Red Cross was there for him and his family when their fire occurred, providing immediate supplies and support.
Dole took a negative of experiencing a home fire and turned it into an opportunity to help others. When he was 17, he started volunteering to help install and change batteries in smoke detectors for the elderly. He even purchased the batteries himself.
Then, in September of 2020, he was witness to fire on a whole new scale.
Typically thought of as a threat to the eastern half of Washington State, the Sumner Grade wildfire sparked and burned nearly 1000 acres around Bonney Lake. The entire community was impacted, if not directly by flames, then by evacuations and smoke that choked much of the area.
At times like this, communities often muster their resources to help one another. Bonney Lake was no different, and Dole was among the residents who started assembling clean-up kits and gathering emergency supplies for impacted families.
A year later, it was only natural for many of those same individuals to organize an event called RENEW Bonney Lake. With the help of lots of donations and volunteer time, 160 tree seedlings were planted to replace trees at the Sumner Fire burn site.
Whether building sifters, planting trees or coming to the aid of neighbors in need, Beautify Bonney Lake is an organization making a difference and looking for more individuals to get involved.
They hope to make “building sifters” an annual project, because even though wildfires are rare in Pierce County, home fires are not. When they happen, Todd Dole knows just how important it is to have community and Red Cross support.
If you would like to get involved with Beautify Bonney Lake you can find them at https://www.beautifybonneylake.org/.