For Sean Swanson, founder of the River Life Foundation, the non-profit organization’s upcoming tenth anniversary celebration is also a personal milestone.
Swanson was homeless in 2008 when he decided he wanted to do something to make a difference. River Life Foundation was established and for many years coordinated feeding the homeless population in and around Fortuna. Today, the organization and community volunteers provide quarterly community clean up events, outreach to the homeless, Saturday night socials with free community dinners and music, and fellowship and community team building.
“At one point I saw that the homeless thing began to change, and not for the better,” Swanson said. “I decided I was not in to enabling that lifestyle,” he added. That is when River Life Foundation began cleaning up homeless camps and the Fortuna river bar area.
“We have removed 315,000 pounds of trash,” Swanson said. “126 (homeless) people have been reunited with family out of the area, or have gotten jobs, or have gone into rehab,” he added. Swanson is proud of his group’s accomplishments and the impact on the community. He said the success is because of the many volunteers who assist in the organization’s endeavors.
One of the River Life Foundation’s recent activities is what Swanson calls a maintenance trail from 3rd and Main in Fortuna to Palmer Boulevard. “The vegetation has been cleared and we are keeping it tidy,” Swanson said. He said the message to the homeless in this area is “you are on private property and you need to find somewhere else to go. I understand if someone is down and out and with out, but there is not camping in this area,” he said. Phase two of the trail is planned for some point in the future, to extend from Palmer Boulevard to Ferndale.
The River Life Foundation will be celebrating its tenth anniversary with a cowboy zombie costume party, dinner and auction. The event will take place Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Fortuna Veterans Memorial Building. A $15 donation per person is requested. Tickets are available at the McLean Foundation, Body Works Fitness Club, and Redwood Thrift.