East Bay woman honored for service during deadly Camp Fire

An East Bay woman was awarded one of the highest public service awards for her help during the deadly Camp Fire. 

Psychologist Carol Weyland Conner founded Pleasant Hill's White Pony Express charity store, which provides assistance to those down on their luck. 

The nonprofit helped those displaced by the wildfire in 2018 and Conner even continued her work on wheels, bringing food and clothing to wildfire victims. 

The American Association of Retired Person honored a small army of volunteers, including Conner, for their efforts on Wednesday. 

The Camp Fire was still raging when Conner marshaled 182 volunteers to respond. 

Over the next 300 days, White Pony Express made 91 300-mile trips to mountain communities surrounding the Paradise burn area to bring relief supplies and cash needed for gas, bills and other needs.

White Pony Chief Operations Officer Isa Campbell said, "We gave away almost 58,000 pounds of food and 1,800 articles of clothing. We gave away thousands of dollars in cash for necessities and put gas in vehicles." 

That gave the far less well funded North State Bank the assistance its staff could not do on their own. 

Tom Dearmore, community services manager at North State Bank said  "They stopped and they tried to understand people and they tried to make a connection with people. They fed them in ways that was more than food. 

AARP Director Nancy McPherson said, "It was so creative what they did. But more importantly, it was something from the heart with a lot of compassion and caring and really good organization." 

Though Conner's name is on the award, she accepted it on behalf of the entire staff of volunteers who came through day in and day out for 10 months.

"That's the important thing. It's not the talk, talk, talk. It's the doing and the contact with others," she said. 

Despite the grueling schedule and long days, work in the Bay Area continued unabated. 

"It doesn't seem like work. It seems just like life, like participating in life as man should," Conner said. 

The award was accompanied by a $1,000 check to the White Pony Express.