By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Trucks and trailers loaded with food and clothing donations for Slave Lake evacuees left the Ray McDonald Sports Centre for Westlock, Athabasca and Alexander First Nation Tuesday afternoon. A Champion Petfoods trailer was more than half full with donations for Westlock, while a smaller trailer was full of donations for Athabasca. Two pickup trucks were also loaded with materials for evacuees being brought to Alexander.
Organized late Monday morning by Town of Morinville councillors and the Town of Morinville’s Family and Community Support Services coordinator, word quickly spread by e-mail, twitter, Facebook and conventional word of mouth.
“The response was overwhelming, but we knew the community would definitely pull together, said Family and Community Support Services Coordinator Amy Dribnenky, adding many calls were received from people wanting to donate or volunteer for the initiative. “It’s been amazing.”
The outpouring of support Morinville and area residents gave to those who were evacuated from Slave Lake is hard to put a number on. “Realistically, this whole lobby has been filled four or five times over,” Dribnenky said Tuesday afternoon as the final boxes were being loaded. “We’ve had to take breaks to get the truck loaded. We had volunteers just loading the truck.
Both Monday night and all day Tuesday, donations were sorted for the different community centres housing the evacuees based on need, but further sorted by gender and age. Bags of donated clothing were emptied, sorted and filled for boys, girls, men, women, toddlers and babies.
“We tried to make it a little bit easier on the relief centres,” Dribnenky said. “Even just going through to make sure items weren’t dirty, ripped or damaged.” The FCSS coordinator said there was very little donated that could not be used.
Although no further donations are needed at this time, Dribnenky said she will be keeping in touch with Westlock, Athabasca and Alexander to see if anything else might be needed. She anticipates knowing more once the trucks have been unloaded at their destination.
Mayor Lloyd Bertschi said response to the Slave Lake disaster has been a great outpouring of support by Albertans and that he was pleased with the response from Morinville residents to give aid. “The sheer volume of support has been tremendous,” the mayor said.
Bertschi said he feels for his compatriots in Slave Lake, the disaster they’ve faced making him think about a similar tragedy striking Morinville.
“There’s no power, no gas. There’s no water. Where do you start rebuilding something like that?” the mayor asked, adding The Town of Morinville as an organization has offered its support administratively to Slave Lake.
The mayor has additional appreciation for just how important emergency planning is to a community. “It really shows the value of having this emergency preparedness [program],” Bertschi said, adding Morinville has begun updating its own emergency plans. “This shows clearly the value of having those procedures and policies in place. It absolutely needs to be done and I’m glad we’re starting on ours.”
It is anticipated Slave Lake evacuees will not be able to return to their community prior to the weekend.