She Had Just Given Birth. Then the Wildfires Reached Her Hospital.

A stranger helped Rachelle Sanders escape just in time.

Gabrielle Lurie/Courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle

David was his name. He worked at the hospital and had a white sedan. A nurse and three other staffers rushed Rachelle Sanders and her 6-pound, 5-ounce newborn boy into this stranger’s car.

They put her IV over the rearview mirror. Then Sanders, her baby, and this stranger roared off, trying to outrun the flames that would destroy Paradise, their northern California town.

As they tried to escape California’s deadliest wildfire, Sanders made David promise that if flames were about to overtake them, he would scoop up her son, Lincoln, and run, so at least the two of them could survive.

Thankfully, Sanders was able to reach safety. But she never learned David’s last name. Read more about Sanders and other survivors’ stories at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Welcome to Recharge, a collection of stories in which people help others, justice prevails, and problems are solved. Sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the story. 

  • Fighting back. Ruth Buffalo ousted an incumbent Republican who tried to exclude many Native Americans from the November vote. In doing so, she became the first Democratic Native American woman elected to the North Dakota Legislature. How did she win? “Meeting people where they’re at,” Buffalo said. “Literally on their doorsteps. They were pretty receptive and open to having a conversation with me on what matters most.” (New York Times)

  • If Betsy DeVos could be a public servant… Kathy Hoffman thought she could be, too. Hoffman, a 31-year-old public school speech therapist, figured that, unlike DeVos, she actually knew her way around a school and understood the issues facing kids and teachers. So she ran to become Arizona’s superintendent for public instruction. In an outcome few expected, Hoffman got 1.1 million votes and beat her challenger by 4 percentage points. (Washington Post)

  • From rejection to victory. As a 17-year-old Girl Scout, Cassandra Levesque wanted to raise the state’s minimum age for marriage from 13 to 18. But the New Hampshire legislator she was lobbying brushed her off. Now, two years later, Levesque has won a seat in the statehouse—and will be able to introduce that legislation herself. The new politician, now 19, promised her constituents: “I will always stick to my gut and what I feel is right.” (New York Times)

  • A stuffed monkey that led to so much more. For decades, Gert Berliner hid away his “good luck piece,” a tiny stuffed animal he kept while fleeing the Holocaust. Berliner escaped alone, one of many children saved by a rescue effort called the Kindertransport. His parents and much of his family were killed. Late in life, Berliner donated the monkey to a museum. A visitor recognized Berliner’s name, and soon realized they were, in fact, long-lost relatives. “It’s a gift,” Berliner, 94, said. “In my old age, I have discovered I have a family.” (NPR)

  • Your stories. As Recharge celebrates its first Thanksgiving, we want to thank the many readers who shared their own experiences with Little Free Libraries after our story on the death of its founder, Todd Bol. From Motoko Inoue of Holyoke, Massachusetts: The Little Free Library “allows people to approach ‘library’ in their own terms and demystify the system. Hopefully it is an introduction to the ‘formal’ library in their community.”

    Ed Rosenberg, from the Cleveland area, wrote: “I go to yard sales and always ask for books for donation. We feed an LFL at the Marion-Sterling Elementary School in Cleveland with children’s books…The little house is empty every week when we go to refill it.”

    And, from a reader named Freya: “Whenever I go on a trip, I try to find Little Free Libraries that are along the way or near where I am staying. I have visited LFLs in several states and left books at a lot of them. I visit yard sales and thrift shops in search of books to put in LFLs. Little Free Libraries are a wonderful idea, and I encourage everybody who loves books to support them.”

Have a Recharge story of your own or an idea to make this column better? Fill out the form below or send me a note to me at recharge@motherjones.com.