Nathan Jones is “pretty much in touch with all the different ‘districts’ of Malibu”—his kids go to Webster Elementary School, he has friends in Corral Canyon, he has clients in neighborhoods like Point Dume, his business partner resides in Serra Retreat.
Though the Woolsey Fire forced him and his family to evacuate on Nov. 9, many of these people stayed behind to fight the fire.
From a friend’s home in Santa Monica, Jones watched another friend talk about his experience—of never having felt so alone—on TV.
“It was just heartbreaking to see him up there on camera, for someone to say that,” Jones described in a phone call with The Malibu Times, further describing the feeling as a “hopelessness that I felt on a personal level.”
Two days later, on Nov. 11, a client messaged him about a house in Santa Monica where people were dropping off donations.
The information pushed him into action; he took his two kids to a local Rite-Aid to purchase supplies to drop off. With items such as toiletries, water and chips and salsa—his kids’ pick—in hand, they went to the house, located on 22nd Street.
As soon as they arrived, he said 10 people, mostly Malibu residents in their early 20s, came rushing out to collect the donations. The front lawn was decorated with items people had already donated.
“I was blown away. They’re really doing something,” he said of the volunteer effort.
Their original plan was distribute the goods to everyone who needed it following repopulation. Jones, with thoughts on his friends and others in the burn area, suggested finding boats to ferry the supplies.
At 12 p.m., he texted everyone he knew to search for the boats. By 3 p.m., he said many boats had been lined up; some had already planned to sail toward the Malibu coastline while others were prompted by Jones’ and others’ requests.
Jones then asked his employees at Jones Builders Group, who were not working due to the fire, to help out with organizing and transporting the donations.
The donations were driven down to the boats starting Monday, Nov. 12. Meanwhile, the Jones Builders Group social media shifted from luxury homes to donation requests to support those in the burn area. Initial requests included diesel, batteries, headlamps, goggles and nonperishable food items.
As a former Topanga resident, Jones was able to take a dirt road and get onto the canyon roads into Malibu the day before, and made another trip with his wife Monday night. He wrote down everything he saw, noting any supplies the residents needed.
By Tuesday, the 22nd Street setup was shut down due to complaints from neighbors. A resident by the name of Matia Wagabaza donated a home to the cause on Pine Street.
The message was spreading.
“You couldn’t get a gas can anywhere on the Westside,” Jones said.
He said the operation was able to fill up a garage full of supplies and take it to the boats—eight times—over the course of a day.
Unlike some other residents’ experiences, Jones said he did not have much trouble from the sheriff’s officials or fire departments.
“They knew that the people were helping them,” he said, adding: “They were open to getting us in whenever we did get in … They were doing their job, but they weren’t mean.”
To put it into perspective, before heading into Malibu for the first time, Jones went to a Topanga friend’s home with a few cases of water and bottles of Jack Daniels; only two days later, he showed up to the friend’s house with five trucks full of supplies for residents.
“It was incredible to see everyone just rise up and help organically,” he said.
Throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, Jones Builders Group had large bins with goods donations set up at their office, located off of Pacific Coast Highway at Rambla Vista. As of Monday, Dec. 3, the donations are being transferred to The Depart Foundation at the Malibu Village (3832 Cross Creek Road).
The Malibu Lumber Yard donated the former BurgerFi space for donated items such as gently-used clothing, bedding and tools.
Jones cautions those looking to donate more used clothing.
“Clothing is out of control, there’s way too much clothing,” he said, adding, “Ninety percent of the clothing we’ve gotten, we can’t use.”
Anyone looking to donate, or volunteer, should contact the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu via bgcmalibu.org.