By Matt Cate.

This has been an incredibly difficult year for a lot of people. From hurricanes in The Gulf to the wildfires here in California, natural disasters have taken dozens of lives and tens of thousands of people have lost their homes, possessions and their way of life. I would be remiss in not mentioning the human tragedies of the recent shootings in Texas and Las Vegas as well. There is no way words can explain those events—or the impact they have on the victims and their families, but, that is precisely why they weigh so heavy on the human experience.

At no time is a career in public service more consequential or more valuable than during a crisis. Whether it’s a wildfire in our own backyard, a hurricane on distant coastlines, or an inexplicable act of violence, we see the best of human nature in the way people respond to these events. In so many recent instances, people with badges and uniforms and many others in public service have given selflessly to help others—often even as they suffered losses of their own.

Most of us will never be called upon to be a hero. Emergencies can strike anywhere, but most of us will never have to pull someone out of a burning building or a flooded car. Most of us will never have to render first aid to someone who’s been injured. However, most of you are reading this because you have dedicated your careers to public service. You give your talents to your community each and every day. It is in that spirit that we are asking you to be a hero in another way, in support of the county family and those we serve.

Nearly 200 California county employees lost their homes in the recent fires. Most of them were in Sonoma County, but there are also county employees in Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties whose homes and possessions are gone. Many of them continued working to help others—even after their own homes were lost. CSAC and the California Association of County Executives (CACE) have set up a special fund to help those members of our county family. Please consider making a donation to that fund.

And also, long before the wildfires in Northern California, CSAC began planning a service event to coincide with our Annual Meeting later this month. During the hours when our Exhibit Hall is open, we will be assembling backpacks with many of the items foster youth need most when they have to make an abrupt transition from one home to another. The finished products will be given to Sacramento County, our host for the Annual Meeting, for the foster youth in their care. We can use your help preparing these critically needed emergency backpacks—and there is also a chance for you to donate funds to that effort to help even more.

This is not a natural disaster, but rather a human-caused trauma. For a frightened child being removed from their home to ensure their safety, an emergency backpack and a few personal items to call their own can make a difficult transition a little easier. You can be a hero to someone who needs your help just as surely as if they had been through a natural disaster.

We know you are asked often to give for various causes. The demand is high and the options to give are many. As we approach this holiday season, when many of us will be celebrating at home with our families, we hope you will remember those people who for various reasons this year are not as fortunate. They too need a hero. A few dollars and some of your time at our Annual Meeting will go a long way towards making a difficult time just a little bit easier.

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Matt Cate is the Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties.