In an emergency, people step up. That was so evident in the Shuswap during this summer’s wildfire emergency. But it’s often not until the crisis has passed that you have time to thank those who helped in so many ways. The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) and the Shuswap Emergency Program have many people and organizations to thank. So, for the next few weeks, we will feature some of these stories each Monday to help us all start our week on a positive note.
It wasn’t the first time the Lakeview Community Centre has become a place of refuge for Anglemont and the adjoining North Shuswap communities.
But it was certainly the most intense.
The centre, which runs completely through fundraising and small grants from the CSRD, has helped out with warming and cooling centres during winter storms and heat domes. And for 23 days this summer, the centre became a haven of support and meals for up to 50 people a day, including local firefighters.
Jim Dingeldein, president of the community association, says that as the fires moved closer and areas started to be evacuated, the association quickly saw the need for a place for people to go, regroup and connect with resources. They threw open the doors and put on the coffee.
As power outages began to drag on and food in local freezers began to thaw, the centre started efforts to turn donated food into hundreds of meals over the course of the evacuations. Deirdre Meier and Darla Dingeldein began the tremendous task of organizing volunteers to make breakfast, bagged lunches and dinners for more than 30 of the CSRD firefighters and others. The centre also hosted some displaced families overnight until other arrangements could be made.
Over the passing days, volunteers and the CSRD began to mobilize supplies for the Anglemont Community, which was not put on Evacuation Order. With community members pitching in, the centre became a place for people to access resources, as supplies were brought in by barge. One of the critical programs was the prescription delivery service, where volunteers assisted the CSRD in getting essential medications sent over on the barge and distributed to residents.
A ‘Free Store’ was set up in conjunction with the CSRD to ensure donated food and other supplies got to residents.
With many disasters, people’s true goodness shone through.
“Many people never hesitated to lend a hand. They’d peel potatoes or sweep floors or clean bathrooms,” says Jim. “It actually really brought a lot of people together. They met neighbours they never knew before and those neighbours turned into friends.”
Jim says, moving forward, the Lakeview Community Centre will continue to focus its efforts on being prepared in case of another emergency. The summer’s efforts brought about 100 new members into the association – a welcome boost in developing an increasing sense of community among residents.
Photos: Volunteers from the Community and Emergency Support Services work to bring supplies off a barge and into Lakeview Community Centre. (CSRD photos)