This Christmas, families and individuals in Fort McMurray who were affected by the wildfires in May are starting from scratch and The Salvation Army is offering practical support to help.
“I can go to my storage containers and pull out my winter coat, boots, Christmas tree and decorations,” says Major Marina Jennings of The Salvation Army. “But those who have lost everything can’t do that.”
The wildfires forced all 90,000 Fort McMurray residents to evacuate the area and destroyed 2,400 homes and other buildings.
“There are a lot of hurting people,” says Jennings. “In the midst of very difficult circumstances we want to ease the burdens.”
In November, The Salvation Army partnered with the Catholic School Board to identify families who had lost their homes. Gift cards for coats, grocery and gas cards were handed out. “It was an emotional, but positive day,” says Jennings. “There were so many heart-breaking stories.”
As Christmas approaches, Salvation Army programs are in full force. From Christmas hampers to people willing to sponsor whole families to Angel Trees that allow families to request gifts for their children, The Salvation Army hopes that people can find a little joy and peace.
“Life is still not moving forward for a lot of people who are trying to get things settled,” says Jennings. “They are coming to us for help.”
The Salvation Army has served in Fort McMurray since 1979 through its community and family services, church, thrift store, homeless shelter, transitional housing facility and group homes.
“We are grateful to Albertans and Canadians for their generous support,” says Jennings. “People have stepped up to help in unbelievable ways.”