May 6, 2016
By Simon Chambers
As the fires burn in and around Fort McMurray evacuation efforts continue. 8000 people were evacuated by air to Edmonton and Calgary yesterday. PWRDF has heard from Dorothy Marshall, our Diocesan Representative in Edmonton, whose nephew’s wife Jodi Schmidt evacuated from Fort McMurray just before the highway was closed, and drove with her baby south with flames on both sides of the road.
PWRDF has spoken with Bishop Fraser Lawton of Athabasca and Bishop Jane Alexander of Edmonton, and has sent an initial grant of $15,000 to the Diocese of Athabasca to help with immediate needs. PWRDF is still working with the Diocese of Edmonton to determine what their financial needs are, but have asked the Diocese to ensure parishes who are responding know that funds are available to purchase relief supplies.
Bishop Lawton told PWRDF that the Diocese is supporting the parishes of Athabasca, Northern Lights and Lac La Biche, which are the nearest parishes to Fort McMurray, in providing relief items. Today, pick up truck loads of needed supplies- food, water, clothing, toiletries, bedding and more- are being organized in Grand Prairie and Athabasca and being driven to Boyle in the parish of the Northern Lights, one of the communities where evacuees are gathering.
“Yesterday our priest from Boyle got a hold of me to tell me they were in desperate need for socks and underwear and everything,” said Bishop Lawton. “But the stores are empty- they can’t just send someone to the store, but need to find the nearest place they can get things from. “
The arrival of thousands of evacuees has made the situation in Edmonton chaotic, but Bishop Alexander assured PWRDF, “we are in it for the long haul. The City of Edmonton has done an incredible job getting ready and coordinating. The city Chaplain has been amazing.”
Bishop Alexander praised the efforts of the Parish of Lac La Biche in the Diocese of Athabasca, saying they are doing amazing things for the evacuees. Lac La Biche is a community of 2500 people that is now hosting thousands of evacuees. The parish of Cold Lake, Edmonton’s parish nearest to Lac La Biche, is providing pastoral support and gathering supplies to bolster the efforts of St. Andrew’s, Lac La Biche.
Clergy and chaplains from the Diocese of Edmonton are part of the rotation of those providing pastoral support in Northlands Expo Centre, the main meeting and registration point for evacuees arriving in Edmonton. They expect thousands more evacuees to be flown in today, and a convoy has left Fort McMurray with still more thousands of people this morning as well.
The Rev. Christopher Tapera, priest at St. Thomas’ Forth McMurray will be arriving in Edmonton today, and will help to act as a chaplain to the evacuees (being an evacuee himself) and to be a point of contact for the response in the diocese.
People in Edmonton are volunteering to open their homes to welcome evacuees. Anglican churches are doing the same. This Sunday, St. Augustine of Canterbury parish in Edmonton will host both clergy from Fort McMurray as well as Bishop Lawton, and evacuees are invited to worship there, or at any parish. “We ask that they tell us they are from Fort McMurray,” said Bishop Alexander, “so we can welcome them.”
Bishop Alexander has written to all parishes in the Diocese of Edmonton, asking them to give the open offering this week to PWRDF or the Red Cross “…for relief work related to the fires. This is of course an extraordinary ask but these are extraordinary times and I hope you will give generously as you are able,” she wrote.
You can support PWRDF’s relief efforts in Alberta:
You can designate your online donation for “Fort McMurray wild fire”.
For credit card donations contact:
416-924-9192 ext. 355; 1-866-308-7973
Please do not send your credit card number by email or fax.
Please make cheques payable to “PWRDF”, mark them for “Fort McMurray wild fire” and send them to:
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund
The Anglican Church of Canada
80 Hayden Street
Toronto, Ontario M4Y 3G2
PWRDF Donations Contact:
416-924-9192 ext. 355; 1-866-308-7973
PWRDF Humanitarian Response Coordinator:
416-924-9199 ext. 321; 1-866-308-7973