Woolsey Recovery Heroes—Cynthia Novak, Sasha Rondell, Melissa Bermeo and Kris Jennings

Cynthia Novak

Four women have been singled out for their tireless efforts in helping Woolsey Fire victims get back on their feet. Kris Jennings, Melissa Bermeo, Sasha Rondell and Cynthia Novak have been boots-on-the-ground—talking to hundreds of fire victims daily to find out their needs. The women spend at least 20 hours a week as block captains for the Malibu Foundation. They meet with victims, lend an ear and actually help get things done on a grass roots level. Jennings even lost her own home to the blaze, but still devotes hours to help victims rebuild their communities.

According to Malibu Foundation leader Evelin Weber, “These women are leaders in the community who have stood hand in hand with fire victims, listened to their needs and helped in the recovery effort. They have been instrumental in helping us deliver the services we need to the community. We wouldn’t know what people wanted unless they came to us with vital information.” That especially includes retrofitting water utilities. With their help, the foundation was able to get nearly $3 million in fees waived, saving rebuild owners $5-6,000 each. Cynthia Novack, who still lives in Seminole Springs, continues to “be the leader in everything we do. A real source of inspiration—an anchor to the community,” according to Weber.

“In any natural disaster, you need people who are directly talking to the community,” Weber continued. “Often, government and institutions aren’t able to get to the grass roots level. I don’t think the Malibu Foundation could be as effective, successful or have tangible results had they not been part of our solution and strategy. We wouldn’t have been able to provide this help without their effort.”