Community rallies around the displaced

With all their worldly possessions turned to smoke and ashes, the families from Wildrose Drive in Sylvan Lake are in great need. But by all accounts, people have so far done cartwheels to help out.

With all their worldly possessions turned to smoke and ashes, the families from Wildrose Drive in Sylvan Lake are in great need. But by all accounts, people have so far done cartwheels to help out.

“It’s pretty awesome. People just come out of the woodwork,” said Teresa Rilling, administrative co-ordinator with Sylvan Lake and Area Community Partners Association, the focal point for helping the affected families.

A major fire on Tuesday displaced 14 people and destroyed four homes.

Rilling said $2,500 in cash had been donated at the organization’s office in the last few days, not counting the $1,500 to $2,000 in food vouchers. And since they can’t collect household items at the office, Community Partners is asking people to phone them regarding any items like beds or couches that they want to donate.

“One of the women needed a bed and somebody just stepped forward and said ‘Well, I wouldn’t want an old bed. I’ll just buy her one,’ ” she said. “Cool things are happening.”

The fire also highlighted the need for more victim services volunteers in the community, says the program’s co-ordinator.

“We’re so short-staffed,” Jennifer Plotnikoff said on Friday. “Gosh if we could have had more, it would have been great. . . . There’s only six of us that are actually trained.”

Plotnikoff was one of a number of blue-jacketed volunteers sent scrambling by the firestorm that levelled two houses, left one with only timbers standing and gutted a fourth. From that disaster, families were left without a roof over their heads, without a change of clothes, without even toothbrushes.

This was where victim services volunteers stepped in, helping those stricken with the loss of their home with support, information and referral services. They calmed the victims and helped them navigate the needs of the police and fire departments.

“As of talking to them this morning, they’re doing pretty well,” Plotnikoff said.

To volunteer for Sylvan Lake victim services, call the RCMP detachment at 403-887-3334 and ask for Plotnikoff.

Several fundraising events are being organized to benefit the victims of the fire.

There will be a barbecue at the Sylvan Sobey’s on May 29 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Sylvan branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is organizing a benefit dance. On June 4 at 7 p.m. at the Legion, Country Gold will play and there will be a silent auction. Admission is by donation.

A bottle and can drive on June 5 will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Red Deer and Sylvan Lake. Bottles will be picked up from houses in Sylvan or can be dropped off at the Wal-Mart in Sylvan or at yet-to-determined drop-off spots in Red Deer. Drop them off at the bottle depot in Sylvan or Red Deer, specify you want to “Be a Hero” and your money will be added to the campaign.

mgauk@bprda.wpengine.com