Friends and neighbours have raised more than $7,000 to keep a Blackfalds couple from being forced out of their specially-designed home.
On Monday, about 180 people attended a dinner and silent auction held to raise money for Ron and Irene Olson, who have been falling further and further behind since he lost his job in April.
Active volunteers with the Blackfalds food bank, the couple gained attention and support when neighbours learned that they faced losing their home because Ron’s employment insurance income wasn’t enough to make the monthly payments.
The home was built with special design features to help Irene cope with complications of multiple sclerosis.
One neighbour set up a trust account while another set up the benefit. On Thursday, benefit co-ordinator Debbie Christiansen handed the Olsons a cheque for $7,167.50.
That’s enough to bring the mortgage up to date, pay lawyers and cover the extra fees involved when foreclosure proceedings were started, Ron said afterward.
“It’s just so unbelievable right now, I am still in shock,” he said.
While grateful for the help they have received, the Olsons have continued to express concerns about other people who have fallen through the cracks.
Confident that he will be soon find a job that will cover expenses and let him come home every night to look after Irene, Ron said he is now turning his attention to helping other people who have fallen into similar straits.
One thing he has learned, he said, is that it’s important to seek help right away. His biggest mistake was in trying to deal with his problems alone and not tell anyone else that he and Irene were getting into trouble.
“That’s the biggest thing people have got to learn. To hide back and not say a word isn’t doing you any good and it’s not doing anybody else good around you.”
Now, the Olsons are asking others to get in touch and tell their stories. They plan to collect as much information as they can and then forward those stories to their MLA, Ray Prins.
Ron said they have been trying to get in touch with Prins to talk about people who fall through the cracks but have not heard from him so far.
Prins could not be reached for comment.
People who wish to share their stories with the Olsons are asked to send a letter to them at Box 909, Blackfalds, Alta., T0M 0J0.