Dagoberto Morales’ calling came louder and more clearly after September’s Almeda fire burned through Southern Oregon.

He’d already spent 25 years as a volunteer, helping uplift farmworkers and Latino immigrants in the Medford area. But after the fire, Morales decided what he’d been doing wasn’t enough.

So he quit his job at a local mill and started working full time with the organization he co-founded, Únete Center for Farm Workers and Immigrant Advocacy.

Before the fire, Morales spent his volunteer time working with Latino people new to the area, helping them acquire skills that would help them get better jobs and get more established in the community.

And with the nonprofit world’s growing commitment to more equitably supporting diverse communities, Morales and Únete are expanding these efforts through classes on English, computer and online skills, and other services.

“We bought new equipment for the classes. And since everything is through Zoom, and there are people who don’t know how to use Zoom, they come to the office since we have a large space and do the class here,” Morales said through an interpreter.

The idea, Morales said, is that one of the best ways to provide wildfire relief is to double down on community-building.

“We don’t want to continue to just give them food or clothes anymore,” Morales said. “Instead, we’re thinking how can we help them get better jobs? What can we do so they can develop new skills? And that’s what we’ve been doing, is starting these little workshops.”

Throughout Western Oregon, 2,000 families sought emergency shelter after being displaced by the September wildfires. More than 5,000 structures and homes burned down. Many communities are still struggling to get back on their feet — and the Latino community was hit especially hard in Southern Oregon.

Read the full article about wildfire relief by Monica Samayoa at Oregon Public Broadcasting.