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Community members peruse items which were donated to those affected by the Woolsey Fire. Barbara Burke/22nd Century Media
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
8:04 am PST November 17, 2018

Shoppers entered Hiptique boutique in Santa Monica on Friday, Nov. 16, a week after an inferno changed the map of Malibu and the trajectory of residents’ lives.

Community members gathered together, shared stories about evacuating Malibu and asked one another whether homes and businesses still stood, where Malibuites found refuge from the tragedy and how people are getting along. 

“As soon as the fire happened, Citizens of Humanity texted me immediately and said, ‘We have 100 pair of denim jeans that we are giving to you to help those affected by the fires,’” said Christine Berardi. “I started asking other clothing vendors and they just kept giving, as did private donors who donated clothing as well.”

Berardi, a Malibuite who also owns the Hiptique Boutique in Trancas Country Mart, was heartened by hosting the event.

“The most important thing to me was that this event gives people in Malibu the opportunity to have a great shopping experience as well as providing them with a place to gather,” she said. “Coming together as a community is so important at times like these.”

Attendees lauded Hiptique for providing a venue for them to shop for basics as they try to carry on in life and deal with being displaced for a significant amount of time.

“There are so many angels in Malibu,” said Tara Buran, a mother of five whose home was damaged in the fire. “It’s amazing that Christine was kind enough to do this for us.”

Attendees Kathryn Linehan and Julia Holland agreed.

“Christine has embodied the spirit of Malibu’s graciousness, caring and love,” Linehan said. “We support one another at times of suffering and desperation.”

Holland nodded and noted, “It’s important to come together when disasters happen.”

Marlene Gozzi, who grew up in Malibu and has endured many fires, noted how resilient Malibuites are.

“Disasters come with the turf in Malibu,” Gozzi said. “I’ve been through a total of five, including a major flood, and having this event tonight is awesome because we no longer have Artifac [Tree], a store that was started by Honey Coatsworth years ago where Malibuites could donate things so that people affected by disasters would have a place to get things they needed.”

Gozzi, whose home on Idyllwild burned to the ground last week, noted that going back to face the devastation will be very difficult.

“It’s a horrific fire but we will all have to go back and dig through the ashes,” she said. “Having this event tonight where people can get new items helps us all process the fact that we’ve been afflicted by fire because it takes a person out of the trauma for a little while and it comforts a person to be in the moment.” 

Attendee Tina Jennings, a fourth-grade teacher at Juan Cabrillo, was grateful that Hiptique was coordinating with her effort to help teachers, retired and working, staff and administrators at Malibu’s schools who have lost property in the fire.

“What people don’t know about Malibu is that many in the city grew up being taught by the same teachers their kids have now,” Jennings said. “I started a relief fund for school employees who have lost their home and property.”

The GoFundMe for Malibu educators (www.gofundme.com/malibu-wildfire-educator-fund) had raised more than $21,000 as of Saturday, Nov. 17.

As attendees shopped and visited and enjoyed heavy entrees, the mood at the venue lightened. The event provided a trace of normalcy amidst the tumult, an oasis of calm in a sea of despair and a hint of a Malibu rebuilt by neighbors who care for one another.