As the wildfire crisis in Fort McMurray and surrounding communities continues, the whole Volunteer Alberta office has been paying attention and keeping our Fort McMurray colleagues, partners, friends, and family in our thoughts.
We have been incredibly inspired by the response from Albertan’s across the province. Some of the stories we have heard so far:
- Individuals are stepping up as impromptu, informal volunteers to deliver gas to stranded motorists and offer food and beds to evacuees.
- Businesses are sharing what they have, including vets and kennels opening to pets in need of shelter, restaurants serving free food, family attractions waiving admission fees, and hotels, dorms, and camps providing lodging.
- Nonprofits in all subsectors are helping in their own ways, including recreation and community centres providing shelter, counselling and referral services supporting evacuees, and disaster relief organizations meeting immediate needs.
- Government at all levels is getting people out of immediate danger, communicating regularly about what is going on, and providing funding and resources where they are needed.
Not only are people in every sector stepping up to help, collaboration within and across sectors to support evacuees has been amazing. Some examples:
- Alberta Food Bank Association has organized for food banks in Edmonton and Calgary to transport large amounts of food to Athabasca and Lac La Biche food banks, using the strength of their network to meet emergency needs arising in those small communities.
- Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton is helping evacuees using the supplies, connections, and volunteers they have from welcoming Syrian refugees.
- Airbnb is waiving service fees on listings from those wishing to share their accommodations with evacuees free of charge.
- Both the provincial and federal governments are matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross, tripling donors’ efforts and enabling a coordinated disaster response. Many businesses are also donating and collecting donations to the Red Cross.
- Oil companies including Shell and Suncor have been working with the evacuation effort to provide transportation and shelter to evacuees.
- Volunteer Alberta has been sharing information and well wishes through Twitter, and waiting to hear how we can best help nonprofits, both from Fort McMurray and those helping around Alberta.
In the coming weeks and months, as both short and long term needs become more clear, communities will continue to respond and support evacuees and the community of Fort McMurray. I am sure we will continue to hear stories of Albertans in every sector and corner of the province finding ways to help out.
If you are looking for opportunities to help, keep in mind that the need has just begun.
Be patient as some organizations are experiencing overwhelming amount of support and donations, beyond what they can currently use or distribute! Your passion and enthusiasm is going to be very helpful as evacuees, organizations, and communities learn more about their ongoing needs – so hang tight.
To keep up to date on the help being provided for Fort McMurray evacuees, follow #ymmhelps on Twitter.