Mikayla, left, and Cheyenne Casey with a stack of their sifter boxes. — Judi Casey

Siblings help community recover from CZU fire

Mikayla Casey, 14, of Boulder Creek loves books. 

Her favorite activity while in Girl Scouts was to meet with her troop at the Alba Schoolhouse in Ben Lomond to catalog the hundreds of books housed in the historical building. So she was devastated to learn that the little red schoolhouse was lost in the CZU August Lighting Complex fire. All the books that Mikayla and her sister, Cheyenne, 13, had been working to track for historical purposes were destroyed.

“Everyone was evacuated, and the girls were looking at ways to help,” said Judi Casey, the girls’ mother. “We saw people posting on Facebook who had lost their homes, and they were looking for sifter boxes to help recover items from the fire. I asked the girls about taking on the project to making sifter boxes, and they both said ‘yes.’ They just wanted to help.”

Even as young teenagers, the sisters understood the significance of what their project would mean to the community. 

“We were evacuated when they began working on the project, and the girls knew their efforts would help others,” Casey said. 

Scarborough Lumber in Ben Lomond donated wood and mesh screens for the boxes, and other items like staples, screws and nails were donated by San Lorenzo Lumber in Felton. Family friend Tom Howard provided a place for the girls to build the boxes, and Mikayla and Cheyenne created 75 2-by-3 sifters for fire victims.

“I started bringing them down to the Water District in Boulder Creek in groups of 10, and each day they were gone,” Casey said. “We only have a few left—each one has been put to use by someone who needs it.” 

The girls researched sifters online, and adopted elements from several projects to create their own. 

In addition to learning how to use tools such as saws, staple guns and drills, both girls said they found other valuable lessons in their project. 

“Cheyenne is happy that she’s able to help people find things that might be important to them,” Casey said. 

Some people sent pictures of things they found as a result of using the boxes.

“Cheyenne hopes the sifter boxes might help people find closure in their loss, and know that there are people who care about them and are willing to help them,” Casey said.

As for Mikayla? “It was a lot of work,” she says, “but it was worth it.”

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Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


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