News / Edmonton

Red Cross donations for Fort McMurray hit $100 million

Fort Mac residents not used to receiving help, having spent decades giving it.

The agency has used the money for evacuation centre support and for direct transfers to evacuees.

Metro File

The agency has used the money for evacuation centre support and for direct transfers to evacuees.

Donations to the Red Cross to aid evacuees fleeing the Fort McMurray wildfire have crossed the $100 million mark.

Officials with the organization confirmed the outpouring of money from people across the country has made it one of the largest fundraising efforts for a natural disaster in Canadian history.

Diane Shannon, executive director of the United Way chapter in Fort McMurray, said that while the city is used to helping—residents rallied most recently for the flood in 2013—to be in need of a helping hand is new.

“This has been incredibly different and humbling to be on the receiving end for every single citizen, rather than on the giving end helping others,” she said.

She credits much of the way in which the fire resonated with donors to the demographics of the city.

“Fort McMurray is made up of people from all across the country. Our roots are in every community in every province,” she said.

“Everybody knows a family that has a tie to Fort McMurray, and I think it felt really close to home for lots of people.”

Adam Zawadiuk, president of the Edmonton chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, adds that Albertans have a strong history of supporting their neighbours, as shown during the southern Alberta flood, for example.

Zawadiuk, who calls the response the “largest and most rapid fundraising campaign I’ve ever seen” said media also played a major role.

“Strong media, and social media, coverage provided a constant update of and immediate engagement with the evacuation,” he said.

Both say donations have come from all sectors of society, showing how widespread the compassion is.

“We see everything from a substantial donation to a family that can afford to give five dollars,” said Shannon.

The United Way sent people to the Red Cross to donate for the initial response, but have since started a fund called United for Fort McMurray to help organizations help as many people as possible going forward.

“For me, that really says that everybody everywhere feels empathy and wants to help, regardless of their contribution,” she said.

“When I have a little 8 year old boy standing in front of my desk and say, ‘here’s a bag of money I collected and my friends were selling lemonade all Mothers Day and we want to help’” it makes you tear up.”

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