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Community opens homes, pockets to support fire victims
Judy Belcourt came to Edmonton from Horse Lake First Nation to attend a meeting. Instead, she ended up volunteering at the emergency clothing bank set up at the Treaty 8 sub-office in the west end of the city.
“This is better than the meeting,” said Belcourt. “It’s been crazy, the clothes coming in. It’s just phenomenal, awesome the help.”
Belcourt added that Horse Lake First Nation is planning a mud bog with the proceeds to go to the Treaty 8 victims of the fire. Horse Lake is one of the Treaty 8 member nations not impacted by the northern fires.
Amanda Proctor, one of a handful of Travelodge employees to help out, added that boxes of clothing came from the Alexander First Nation of Treaty 6 territory.
And everybody from the impromptu clothing bank is talking about the seven-year-old boy who brought in two large cans of coins he was saving for a dirt bike, donating it all to help the fire victims.
Victor Horseman, Grand Chief liaison with Treaty 8, said evacuees are overwhelmed with the help they have received.
“One young family came in, two children, the mom and dad. (They were) evacuated out of Slave Lake. She was distraught. She was overwhelmed with the community support that we were offering. They were still wearing the clothes they left with on Sunday. She couldn’t hold her tears back,” said Horseman.
In Wabasca, the community hall was set up to house local evacuees. The evacuees in Big Stone Cree Reserves B and D never became an overnight situation with the fire in those parts of the reserve brought quickly under control, but the community hall remained open for evacuees from other communities.
“People from Slave Lake went to Athabasca (first), but now they’re in Wabasca because we have more room for them. With the fire dying down in Slave Lake people are anxious to get home and coming here is closer (to home),” said Dennis Egyedy, CAO of the Municipal District of Opportunity and director of the disaster operations centre. While many people arrived with campers, NorAlta Hotel, Canada North Camp and NorAlta Lodge offered free accommodations.
“(They) have offered rooms to the people coming here. It is so much easier to deal with things when you have privacy,” said Egyedy.
The MD prepared all three daily meals for evacuees. Donations of needed items has hit overload.
“The community has really come through,” said Egyedy.
Photo Caption: Sorting through the boxes of clothes are Travelodge workers (from left) Becky Patterson, Amanda Proctor and Bogusha Pomerenke with Horse Lake First Nation member Judy Belcourt lending a hand.
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