“As the community moves from response to re-entry to recovery and rebuilding, the local Salvation Army in Fort McMurray is beginning to consider and anticipate community needs,” says Captain Mark Stanley from The Salvation Army in Alberta.
As of July 4, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry classified the wildfire as under control, completely contained and will be extinguished. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people evacuated have returned to their homes. With this in mind, The Salvation Army has identified three key goals.
- Continue to build and nurture the relationships and partnerships that have been established with first responders, in particular the fire department and operation centre, as the recovery process begins.
- Provide ongoing emotional and spiritual care to residents. The impacts of this trauma are far reaching and will be felt for several years to come. The Salvation Army wants to ensure that access to emotional care is available to all requiring it, without barriers due to finances or health insurance coverage. We presently have four church pastors and four professional counsellors on staff but additional resources are required.
- Develop programs to assist residents with the burdens of rebuilding. Many residents were uninsured or underinsured and The Salvation Army wants to assist those individuals financially as they rebuild their lives and homes.
Salvation Army Supports
When the fire first started on May 1, 2016, Salvation Army Fort McMurray personnel and community response unit (CRU) were on the front lines immediately serving food and drink to fire fighters. We held our position there until the entire community was evacuated on May 3.
Over the course of the evacuation, volunteer teams and five community response units from three provinces provided emotional and spiritual care and served over 15,000 meals to first responders and emergency personnel in Fort McMurray. Across the province, The Salvation Army provided for the immediate needs of over 1,500 evacuees through emergency gift cards, Thrift Store vouchers for clothing and food hampers.
When residents began returning to the community in early June, The Salvation Army deployed a team of over 50 people to offer hydration, snacks, and emotional and spiritual care at the seven welcome centres. The Salvation Army in Fort McMurray continues to function as a distribution centre for mattresses, baby essentials, household items and other donated goods. Demand for these physical goods has begun to decline and it is anticipated that distribution will cease in early August.
The Salvation Army Thrift Store and Community Outreach programs re-opened in mid-June and all four Salvation Army group homes have re-opened and are operating at 100% capacity. The emergency shelter has also re-opened. We are seeing many new faces due to the number of residences that were destroyed by the wild fire in the city.