Albertans have been opening their homes, cupboards and wallets for fire evacuees from Fort McMurray since the city’s 80,000 residents were told to flee Tuesday. Amidst the tragedy and anguish being felt in northern Alberta, there have also been tremendous and inspiring acts of generosity and kindness.
Countless stories have emerged of rescue and help efforts from good Samaritans who have provided fuel, food, water, blankets, shelter, supplies and even cash to those in great need.
North Pointe was volunteered as a crisis care center indefinitely to the pastoral and counseling staff from Family Christian Centre. They are reaching out to evacuees by providing counsel, prayer, hugs, coffee, gift cards and a network of support. Don’t lose track of the fact that the caregivers are themselves displaced from their homes and in need of care.
Stories of Generosity
Cheryl Weber from 100 Huntley Street was at North Pointe on May 11th to catalogue some of those stories of generosity.
Zakk Baltgailis, who served with the Canadian Armed Forces, was a part of an emergency team delivering fuel and water to desperate people on Hwy 63 leading into Fort Mac. Raven Baltgailis and her siblings sold vehicle decals in support of the Red Cross’s work in Fort Mac and raised just under $8,000. Good on you!
Hope Thomas, a Children’s Ministry staff member at North Pointe, opened her apt to six evacuees and (a dog). Darcy Lemieux (one of North Pointe’s ushers) left his wife and daughters to head up to Fort Mac to volunteer his wit and strength. He has tirelessly fought the fires in Wood Buffalo since May 3rd.
Twenty One Dinner Guests (and Five Dogs)
Del and Beth Ratzlaff’s story offers precious insight into what so many evacuees are experiencing. She says,
“My husband, Del, and his staff of fourteen were evacuated from their workplace (Westburne Electric), their homes and their city of Fort McMurray within a two hour period on May 3rd. Many, unable to go home from the office, worked feverishly to connect with their family members, and get to safety. The storm of fire they drove through was terrifying, as we’ve all seen on varied media sources.
I waited at our St. Albert home glued to TV news until 4:30 a.m. when Del walked through the door. One of the first things we committed to was ensuring all staff had a place to stay, and that we would provide a place of connection.
The next night our home was electric with adrenaline, fear, gratitude and emotion. There were tears, hugs, relief and laughter. Guests arrived with their families, (and 5 dogs!) and we began a rich journey together.
Twenty one of us crowded into one room to eat together, not wanting to miss a word of conversation.
What Really Is Important
There were proclamations of what really is important. People. And small things – like a child’s favorite toy. This was remarkable in the face of two families knowing their homes were lost.
One of our guests, a mom of two toddlers, was quiet as she helped in the kitchen. I suggested she rest, “Go and sit. I can handle this, don’t worry.” She shook her head and tears flooded her eyes. “I can’t, I have to stay busy.”
Working side by side I realized she was receiving texts indicating their area of the city was being ravaged by fire. The thought of losing everything was nearly unbearable in those moments. I prayed a silent prayer.
She found out a day later that miraculously, in spite of the yard and side of the garage being burned, their house was saved!
It was a dinner party like no other. Encouragement poured out, vulnerability was accepted, support was extended and love was demonstrated.
I was shaken by their stories and profoundly affected by their courage and strength.”
These are just some of the thousands of stories of compassion that will come out of the chaos.
When things get tough, the tough get going and Albertans are the best at elevating their generosity to a higher level.
APPLICATION: You can donate to the ongoing relief efforts in Fort Mac by donating to the Emergency Relief and Development Organization (ERDO) through North Pointe. Please leave a comment below.
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