Fire ‘devastating’

Charred bits of debris, pink insulation and parts of the ceiling littered the floor of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society after a fire ripped through the building at 4712 51st Ave. early Thursday morning.

Red Deer Native Friendship Society worker Shauna Simon and another woman peer inside the centre Thursday morning.

Charred bits of debris, pink insulation and parts of the ceiling littered the floor of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society after a fire ripped through the building at 4712 51st Ave. early Thursday morning.

The building also houses Street Ties Youth Outreach on the first floor in the back and a few apartments on the second floor in the back.

“It’s devastating. We have no home base operations,” said Sheralle Graystone, director of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society. “All of our staff, all of our clients, all of our youth are just going to be devastated.”

Firefighters let staff members go into the office on Thursday morning and they found some of their drums intact, but sweetgrass, medicines and many other items were damaged from the water and smoke that enveloped the building.

The Red Deer Native Friendship Society just celebrated 25 years of service and helps around 400 people a month for drop-ins, plus those who take part in the society’s programs. The society has the Spirit Seekers youth program for young people and the Little Paws program for parents and children from birth to age five.

Mel Sawyerr, an outreach worker with the Red Deer Native Friendship Society, said there will be quite a big impact from the fire.

“A lot of the people on the streets do come in and have a coffee, and sit and chat,” Sawyerr said. “It’s one less place they’ll be able to access.”

Graystone said they’ll be looking for a new space to open so they can continue to serve their clients.

“Red Deer is great, so I’m sure we’ll get a lot of support. We’ve seen a lot of support this morning,” Graystone said.

A fundraiser for the Red Deer Native Friendship Society is scheduled for today from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. at Rotary Recreational Park at Heritage Square and will feature traditional drum groups. People are asked to bring a food donation and their own lawn chairs.

The three-storey building suffered extensive damage. The second and third-storey windows were smashed out, the frames blackened and a portion of the roof had collapsed on the third floor.

Gillian Schultz, a program co-ordinator with Street Ties Youth Outreach, donned a pair of fireman’s boots and pants and was escorted into the building to retrieve a few items on Thursday. She said there was a lot of water damage. She was able to grab some framed photo collages of their summer art program, as well as paperwork on the group’s summer projects.

“It’s pretty devastating,” said Brittney Gross, an outreach worker with Street Ties Youth Outreach. “Part of the ceiling has collapsed and it’s just in complete disarray.”

Street Ties Youth Outreach is a Parkland Youth Homes program that offers outreach service to high-risk and homeless youth in Red Deer between the ages of 12 to 21. The organization has showers, lockers and computers used by 15 to 30 youth each day.

“It’s quite a blow for us to not have a building,” said Sandy Proseilo, program manager of Street Ties Youth Outreach.

“We have a very dedicated staff who work really hard to help these kids, so hopefully we’ll be able to recoup. The good news is that nobody has been hurt.”

Proseilo said she hopes they can find another building soon for the young people they serve.

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