The best way you can help remains donating to the Red Cross online or by texting “Redcross” to 30333 for a quick and easy $5 donation. All of these funds will be matched by both the federal and provincial governments.
Words cannot even begin to express the range of emotions we have all felt over these past few days. Early on, it was with horror at the images coming back via social media of cars trapped on highways while flames leapt over the road. Then, as the hours went by, the evacuees began to trickle into the City of Edmonton’s reception centre and the stories of escape and survival were made real for all of us. The scale of this disaster is nearly unfathomable. The number of people evacuated would fill the seats in five NHL hockey arenas.
When I visited the reception centre on Wednesday and Thursday, I met some of the people who made it out – and as a father, husband and neighbour, you can’t help but hear their stories in different ways. I saw a little girl who was having a meltdown over a juice box she didn’t want to drink. On any other day (and often in my kitchen) this would be a fairly routine event, but those tears felt different. It took everything I had not to give her a hug and do whatever I could to make things normal again. There’s a story behind every person in that reception centre, each family stuck on the highway, and each evacuee sleeping on a friend’s couch.
It’s always been Edmonton’s instinct to help, and help we have.
Seeing the City’s coordinated efforts between our Fire Rescue Services, our Emergency Support Response Team, Red Cross, Northlands, Edmonton Police, Edmonton Transit Service, Edmonton International Airport, Alberta Health Services, Humane Society, counselling services, recreational services, daycare services, insurance companies and so many more has brought me incredible amounts of pride. On top of all of this, my office has been inundated with calls from big corporations, small mom-and-pop shops and individuals who want to do something – anything – to help.
From EEDC’s fundraising breakfast in Churchill Square, to businesses offering meeting rooms, to corporate donations, hotel discounts, mobile pharmacies, complimentary cell phones and storage facilities – there isn’t much Edmontonians haven’t offered to share. You have stepped up in a big, big way.
This help is just the beginning, I’m afraid. Over the next days and months our Wood Buffalo neighbours will need our ongoing support, because the recovery will be like nothing we’ve ever done before.
We are all coming together and it makes us a stronger city because of it. If I had one message for all the evacuees it would be that they can always count on Edmonton to be there – today, tomorrow and beyond. Even if we are just one small part of the story of their life, we hope the story is that Edmonton is loving, kind and never runs out of hugs.