Last November, James “Woody” Faircloth was wondering how to keep his then-6-year-old daughter, Luna, busy during her week off from school for the Thanksgiving holiday.
As he watched the devastating wildfires in Paradise, Calif., on TV from his home in Denver, Colo., he knew he wanted to do something to help.
“There were 50,000 people that lost their homes right before Thanksgiving, which is crazy,” Faircloth said.
Faircloth, who grew up in Winston-Salem, came up with the idea of driving an RV about 1,100 miles to California as temporary housing for a victim of the wildfires.
That idea prompted him to later create an organization called RV4CampfireFamily that provides housing to displaced fire survivors in Paradise, Calif., and surrounding communities by connecting RV donors with eligible families.
That idea has also helped Faircloth achieve the honor of being one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes for 2019. He is now in the running to be named CNN Hero of the Year. The winner will receive $100,000 to continue their work.
Mark Doctrow, senior broadcast producer for CNN Heroes, said that Faircloth is doing incredible things, like all of the CNN Heroes.
“He was just a regular guy, at home watching TV — watching in horror at the devastation caused by California’s worst wildfire last year and decided to do something about it,” Doctrow said in a statement. “He’s everything we look for in our stories — an everyday person out there making a difference. We’re so excited to share his and all this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes’ stories.”
People can vote up to 10 times a day through Dec. 3 for the Hero of the Year at www.CNNHeroes.com.
The 2019 CNN Hero of the Year will be announced live on “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” at 8 p.m. Dec. 8 on CNN.
Faircloth works as a national account manager at Comcast. He is a graduate of Reynolds High and Wake Forest University.
His parents, Bill and Becky Faircloth, still live in Winston-Salem. Bill Faircloth retired in 2017 as assistant athletics director of football at Wake Forest University.
Meeting a need
When Faircloth first decided to find an RV in November 2018, he emailed folks on Craigslist in Colorado who had an RV and asked if they would be willing to donate or discount it. He got a response from a man willing to sell his RV for $2,500.
“I’d never stepped foot in an RV before, but we drove it out there,” he said, referring to himself and Luna.
When he talked to his daughter about finding a family who needed a place to stay for Thanksgiving, she shook her head, smiled and said, “Dad, God and Santa Claus are really going to be proud of us.”
Faircloth said the trip to Chico, Calif., was beautiful, despite their having to travel 12 hours longer than he thought they would because they had to reroute away from snow storms.
He and Luna ate truck-stop food on their way to Chico, which is near Paradise.
“It was the most amazing Thanksgiving I’ve ever had, and I’ve had great Thanksgivings,” Faircloth said.
On the way to California, he had set up a gmail address and typed a note letting people know that he and his daughter wanted to donate the RV to a first responder, but they were open to giving it to anybody in need.
“My phone just melted,” Faircloth said. “Hundreds of people replied.”
The RV ultimately went to a family of six from Paradise who had lost their home and all their belongings.
Today, Faircloth has a website at www.RV4CampFireFamily.org.
“As of last weekend, we’ve delivered 70 RVs to people who have lost their homes,” Faircloth said.
He said that a lot of people who have been helped by his organization have found permanent housing and have re-donated their RVs to help more victims.
“I’ve had a career in telecom for 30 years and last year was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done for no pay,” he said.
He said the publicity his organization has received since last year has attracted so many people who simply want to help.
“A lot of times, the fire goes out and the news moves on to something else, but people are still hurting,” Faircloth said.