News / Edmonton

Fort Mac in need as volunteers, donations slow down

Alberta Wildfire Donation Centre in Edmonton needs about 20-30 people a day to be operating at full capacity, but some days they just have a handful.

Alberta Wildfire Donation Centre spokesperson Kryzia Abacan says they're in need of volunteers to sort and ship donations before their contract finishes in November.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Alberta Wildfire Donation Centre spokesperson Kryzia Abacan says they're in need of volunteers to sort and ship donations before their contract finishes in November.

When Rachel Ondang arrives for work at a Fort McMurray centre for donations there is often a line of people waiting for her.

“It's gotten really overwhelming in the last couple of weeks," she said. "We've had them lined up all the way to the street."

Five months after wildfire devastated the town, many people are still struggling to get back on their feet—and reliant on donations that continue to arrive from Edmonton.

“Now that winter is starting to come and we’re hitting cold temperatures, the demand and the need have gotten even bigger,” said Ondang, who's the coordinator for a centre operating out of North Life Fellowship Baptist Church in Fort McMurray.

“There’s such a difference, there are some people have gone back to living a normal life but then there’s a large portion of people who can’t,” she said. “It’s like different parts of the city are different worlds.”

Here in Edmonton, donations to the Alberta Wildfire Donation Centre have slowed, but they’re trying to recruit enough volunteers to sort the socks, clothes and household items they still have in stock.

The donation centre has shipped more than 850 pallets of donated items to agencies in Fort McMurray so far—but that’s only two thirds of the items donated by people in the Edmonton area.

But the volunteer help has also tapered off. According to spokesperson Kryzia Abacan, they need about 20-30 people a day to be operating at full capacity, but some days they just have a handful.

They have a contract to operate until November, and are looking for a last cadre of volunteers to get the of the donations sorted and shipped.

Ondang’s is one of seven centres receiving supplies from the central donation centre in Edmonton.

In July her centre saw an average of 35 families a day, but in September that increased to 41 per day, something she attributes to people with kids coming back for the start of school.

She’s helped people who didn’t have content insurance, people who lived in illegal suites who can't help from their landlords, and people who had all the required insurance but are still struggling.

Complicating things further is the fact that most of the “beautiful brand new stuff” donated was summer clothing, and temperatures are dropping.

"We're in very deep," she said. "It's going to be a long winter."