A group of volunteers brings essential supplies to the snowy California residents

Sean Devine works to find his way to Sherrill Waton’s house as he delivers food in Cedar Glen, CA, on Monday, March 6, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The large and growing volunteer-led relief effort, operating for days outside of parking lots and living spaces and now dubbed “Operation Strong Mountain”, has brought food and essential supplies to people stranded in snow and stranded on their home in the San Bernardino Mountains, amid criticism from some that law enforcement and other local government agencies did not act during the crisis.

Nearly two weeks after the record-breaking storm dumped more than seven feet of snow in several mountainous areas, many residents remain trapped in their homes. They wrote messages in the snow. They pleaded and begged on local Facebook groups for rescuers to dig them up.

While there is a county-run rescue operation with a glossy badge and a command center, it’s the unpaid efforts led by locals in grocery store parking lots and Facebook Messenger groups that some residents say are getting the job done.

“None of us are getting paid to do this,” said Lisa Griggs, a Lake Arrowhead resident and one of the main local aid organizers. “We are just a community. We have no experience in this… it’s just community.”

The effort, dubbed “Operation Strong Mountain” by organizers, is a collaboration between local churches, businesses and dozens of volunteers — who say they mostly carry it out themselves.

“We don’t have a lot of cooperation from the sheriff, county, or state,” said Crestline resident and Operation Strong Mountain organizer Max Strawn. “If anything, they have created an obstacle.”

Relief efforts organized by volunteers are largely separate from those organized by the County of San Bernardino. Hotlines organized by districts have seen mixed results and many complaints.

Some organizers have noticed a limited presence from the Sheriff’s Department, and are hesitant to work with volunteer groups who, they say, appear to be efficiently delivering supplies.

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