Sunday night as I was just randomly checking my twitter stream this was happening. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5m6OErRXpA]
A town was burning to the ground. One that I have visited many times in my life time. A beautiful place full of incredible northern Alberta scenery and history and one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Alberta (it has actual gorgeous white sandy beaches).
Wildfires are always a problem in our province during the spring and summer, and this year is no exception. It is very dry here and add to that the high winds that we have been experiencing across our province this past week and it did not take much for a forest fire to jump across a highway and forge a huge path of destruction straight through the town of Slave Lake.
A full evacuation of the more than 7000 people who live in and around the town was put in effect on Sunday night and with only one road in or out they headed south to evacuation centres set up in Athabasca, Westlock and Edmonton. Most had to leave their houses with only a few minutes notice and with the clothes on their backs and a hastily packed bag.
Can you imagine for a minute what that would be like? Grabbing yourself, your children, your pets (and some could not do even this), taking one last look at your home and not knowing if it would be there when you came back?
Well, that was too much for a group of us on twitter to imagine and then not DO something about it. And so into the late hours of Sunday night and wee hours of Monday morning we set up an event page on Facebook to collect donations of material items that these people were going to need right away and in the very near future.
When I finally went to bed Sunday night, we were six Twitter moms just trying to do something to help our community and between all of our personal and business networks we had about 100 people already rallied on our event page.
When we woke up the next morning we had 500 people on the event page and by days end on Monday it was up to 1000. The donations were coming in en masse, the emails flooding our inboxes, and we were overwhelmed! Our front porches and small business locations could not handle the sheer amount of donations being brought in and we needed a bigger space to spread out and sort and get the evacuees and fire victims the supplies they needed!
And just like that, with the incredible power that is Social Media and one by one, Super Heroes came crawling out of the woodwork! A local community league donated their hall to us for the week. Multiple trucking companies have donated their trucks, time and drivers to us to haul huge loads of supplies to the areas that need them the most. Ford Canada stepped up and donated an F-150 pick-up for us to use for whatever we need! Some pretty incredible individuals have donated hours upon hours of their time to come and help sort through the mountains of bags that we have received. A lot of them have babies strapped to their backs in baby carriers while they are doing this!
You hear about the strength of mothers in times of stress and the ones who lift cars off of toddlers. Well, there have been no cars on toddlers this week, but the strength and determination and sheer MOM-entum that is keeping us all running this week is nothing short of a miracle! I am both humbled and honored to call a lot of these women my dear, dear friends!
We still have A LOT of work to do. We need more volunteers over the next two days to help with sorting and organizing our donations. We will be packing up one of the semi-trucks tomorrow with immediate essentials and sending it off to the evacuation centre in High Prairie, where about 1400 people have been displaced from their homes and land.
If you can spare an hour or two of your time, or if you can gather together donations for our efforts, please join us at the Beacon Heights Community Hall in Old Towne Beverly at 4418-118 Avenue from 9:30-7 PM Thursday and Friday.
Here is the list of items that are most needed at this time:
Toilet paper, diapers, towels, formula, bedding, all toiletries, Non-perishable food items, bottled water, Depends - mens and ladies, bug spray, paper towels, bleach, rags, pails, cleaning supplies, Alberta Health Services grade disinfectant, dry dog food, NEW socks and underwear.
**Please have items sorted beforehand to make everyone's jobs a little easier**
Thank you everyone (these words just don't seem like enough right now!),
"There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three thing we crave most in live
- happiness, freedom and peace of mind -
are always attained by giving them to someone else."
Peyton Conway March