Jon Moore was driving back from a wedding just after midnight. Suddenly, he saw an eerie orange glow up ahead. Then, in another direction, another orange glow. Two wildfires were racing toward his Santa Rosa, California neighborhood.

Moments later, Jon and his wife loaded their dog into their RV and joined a caravan of 100,000 people fleeing the fast-approaching flames.

To avoid panic, he turned his thoughts to how he might help others. "I thought, if my house is burning right now, there's nothing I can do. There's National Guard and police, they won't let me back to my house, so I just have to deal with the fact that my house is probably going to be burned up and get my mind off my own stuff and help other people."

Giving back to those who helped him

Growing up, Jon's mother struggled to support 4 kids. The Salvation Army provided oatmeal for breakfast and "experienced" clothes for school. He was also drawn to the Salvation Army because it supports first responders. Several members of Jon's family are fire fighters or police officers.

At the time of the wildfire that killed 44 and destroyed 8,889 homes last October, he was chair of the local Salvation Army advisory board.

He drove to the community center that first morning of the fire. About 500 fire victims had already taken shelter there. With no experience feeding that many people, he knew he could apply skills he had learned as a sales operations manager in AT&T Business – skills like leadership, organization and project management.

Jon Moore

Service with a flair

The crisis immediately made national headlines. Within hours, a San Francisco restaurant owners group called with an offer to help their displaced neighbors in the wine country. Many delivered huge quantities of their signature dishes to the evacuation center. Jon saw an opportunity. He decided such fine cuisine should be served with flair.

"My mission was to delight my customers," Jon chuckled. He made a show of presenting each dish with a flourish. "'Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have for you a tender young pork roast with whatever…' and 'dessert is a warm berry cobbler with hand-spun vanilla ice cream.'"

Under Jon's leadership, the Salvation Army served 86,878 meals during the 10-day crisis.

She said she would never forget him

In addition to great food, Jon served up a heaping helping of emotional support for the evacuees. "I sat and talked with them. I asked how they were holding up, and whether they'd had any news about their homes.

"One lady told me, 'I will never forget what you've done for me and for our community.'"

A few days later, she sent Jon a check for $49,000, payable to the Salvation Army.

When the fire finally died down, his home was still standing. The flames had come within a few hundred yards of his doorstep.

The ordeal left Jon with a deeper appreciation for first responders. "If it weren't for them, my house wouldn't be there.”