PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

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Facebook group aims to help community

By From page A1 | December 27, 2013

A complaint of being tailgated turned to receiving new tires for a Placerville woman thanks to a Facebook group that aims to keep county residents informed of crime, lost dogs and missing people.

An exasperated post by Tiffany Parks of Placerville on Dec. 13 posed a simple question to the El Dorado County Watch Facebook group: Why do people tailgate? It was Parks’ first time out since it had snowed, she wrote, and she had a bald tire with a leak. While driving on Sly Park Road, she said that the car behind her was “practically kissing my bumper” and then passed her. She was worried, she noted, because she had her two sons in the car.

The community was determined to get Parks new tires. Donations were made to Sierra Nevada Tires, said Laura Clark, an administrator for the Facebook group. “Donations of $5, $10, $20 were made,” she said, with a child even donating $3. Just short of $400 was collected. Just $225 was needed to provide Parks with new front tires, all Parks would accept, Clark said. The tires also came with changing the alignment of Parks’ car.

“I wasn’t even asking for tires,” Parks told the Mountain Democrat. “I was just complaining about someone tailgating me on Sly Park Road.” Her husband had lost his job and money was tight, with no money to spare for tires, she wrote in another Facebook post. “All these wonderful people decided to donate to Sierra Nevada Tires,” she said.

“I was not expecting anything like that,” she said of the donations. She had been told after her post the it might take a few weeks to collect the money. “They raised (the money) in 24 hours.”

The community coming together as such was not something Parks had ever encountered. “I’ve never had somebody step up like that to help my family. It’s awesome,” she said.

The remaining money was spread out, Clark said. A family with a special needs child, that Clark also sponsors herself, received $50. A family with three children and a sick mother received the same amount. Jamie Shannon, who runs El Dorado Caring Hearts, a grassroots group that donates items to those in need, received $70 to use for donations.

The Facebook group has also found and returned lost dogs, found missing people and updated on crimes and accidents. In part, it’s from having nearly 3,000 people in the group watching out for each other — the reason why Debbie Wirth originally created the group five months ago, she said.

It started as part of El Dorado County Exchange, another Facebook group that is aimed at residents selling items to each other. It spiraled out into a Neighborhood Watch-type group, Clark said.

“It started on the Exchange with a post about a suspicious guy walking his dogs off leash,” Wirth said. The man would go up to children and ask them to pet the dogs. Members of the other group said they would look into it. Still more members were angry at the vigilantism. But the post was buried. “Someone asked, ‘Why not make a new page?’ I said, ‘I can make a page,’” Wirth said. El Dorado County Watch was born.

Clark offered another example of the power of the community: A young man was donated a bike, which would be his only means of transportation besides walking. The bike was stolen just after he received it. With a day of posting to the Watch, a woman offered to donate another bike, to be held by Placerville Police Department until the man could pick it up. The group will also continue to search for the stolen bike.

Another example: Wirth said someone posted a cat was stuck 40 feet up a tree. Clark herself paid for John Herrick of Herrick Tree Services to get the cat down. When another cat was stuck up in a tree, the Watch group members pooled money to again pay Herrick for his services.

When the Rim Fire was still burning, Wirth said, people would post about the erratic behaviors of animals. Mountain lions were seen sleeping in fields, something they would normally not do, having been ousted from their normal territory likely by smoke, Wirth said.

“We’re going to stay positive,” Clark said, despite sometimes getting hate mail. “We try to have fun with it.”

With people asking what sirens heard in different parts of the county are for, with missing people, crime, accidents, medical issues and more, Wirth said the group is “A positive about a negative.”

The Facebook group can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/376286302473167.

Cole Mayer

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