June 08, 2016 - 4:30 PM
KAMLOOPS - As people return to Fort McMurray, a local group that supplied evacuees from the wildfire with donated goods has closed its doors.
The group Kamloops Pit Stop for Ft. McMurray Evacuees started on Facebook but quickly moved into the physical world as local individuals and businesses collected supplies to hand out to Fort McMurray residents seeking temporary shelter in B.C. Elly Grabner, a 34-year-old Kamloops woman and one of the leaders of the group, says after about a month of operating out of lockers at Iron Mask Mini Storage, the group is shutting down.
The group was finding it difficult to find volunteers to staff the operation regularly, while the needs of evacuees were changing. The group had been supplying basic supplies to people as they fled the flames and now most of those needs have been met, and funding from the Red Cross and Albertan government is coming through.
The group still had supplies sitting in storage lockers as it looked to close down so they sent what they could to the Airdrie evacuation centre and the Postmen, a group taking supplies to communities north of Fort McMurray, since donations were given with the intention of helping Albertans affected by the wildfire, Grabner says.
Anything that couldn’t be sent to Alberta is staying local.
“We could have called one place and dropped it all off, but we wanted to make sure they were going to be given to organizations that hand them directly to people that need them,” she says, noting organizations like the hospice, SPCA and Kamloops Food Bank are receiving some of the donations.
Overall the group helped 232 people and Grabner says many were grateful for the assistance, but didn’t want to take too much.
“They were very humble and wanted to leave things for someone who needed something more,” she says.
Grabner believes about a dozen evacuees are staying in Kamloops for awhile longer as they wait for their hometown to rebuild before returning.
The donations came from individuals and businesses, including gift cards from grocery stores and six pallets of clothing and shoes from NRI Distribution. Grabner says she doesn’t know what all went through, as things constantly came and went, but they almost had to start a fourth storage locker a couple times.
The whole experience has been gratifying to the more than 25 volunteers.
“There were tears every day, some good, some sad,” she says. “I think that, for me and some of the volunteers I have spoken to about it, it renewed that faith in human beings.”
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