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PWRDF supports the Diocese of Kootenay in aftermath of wildfire

A cross at the edge of a dock at Camp OAC survived the recent fire that destroyed most of the camp.

September 18, 2023

By Jacqueline Tucci

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PWRDF is continuing to respond with emergency funds for those dealing with evacuations and damages due to ongoing wildfires. This summer, PWRDF established the In-Canada Emergency Response Fund, which allows for the quick release of funds to those affected. PWRDF is providing a $5,000 grant to the Diocese of Kootenay as they begin to rebuild.

In August, 95% of the Okanagan Anglican Camp (OAC) was destroyed during the McDougall Creek wildfire. The dining hall, staff quarters, residence building, crafts and program building and the dock were all damaged, while the camp had to be evacuated.  

“Although we have had more than a week knowing the camp had sustained major devastation, it was still daunting to view the scope of the fire, buildings simply small piles of twisted metal,” wrote Archbishop Lynne McNaughton in a letter to the Diocese. “The wooden dining hall that has stood for 70 years now is a lonely-looking stone fireplace standing by itself. The beautiful “Windsong” where we had community gatherings and joyful dances is gone.”  

As the fire approached the camp, the Diocese rented vehicles to safely transport and relocate all campers and staff that were onsite at the time. “As we heard of the speed of the fire that night of high winds, we remain grateful everyone got out safely,” Archbishop Lynne wrote. 

The $5,000 PWRDF grant will assist the Diocese to recoup some of those rental costs, as well as with its plans to rebuild the camp. 

OAC is located just north of Kelowna on the Okanagan Lake. Thousands of young campers have attended since it first opened in 1950. In the off-season, the property is available for rentals and has been used to host family reunions, get togethers, school groups and weddings. Camp OAC is a valuable community space that has been enjoyed by many through its nearly 75-year history, including PWRDF Public Engagement Program Coordinator, Suzanne Rumsey.  

“I grew up in the Diocese of Kootenay and Camp OAC, like Camp Beattie and the Sorrento Centre, were important ‘camp’ experiences for me,” said Rumsey. 

“As a child and young person, they were where I learned about God’s creation, about community, and about how to NOT tip a canoe! I am grateful and glad that PWRDF is partnering with the diocese to respond to the destruction by wildfire of Camp OAC.” 

In addition to rebuilding and recouping transportation costs at Camp OAC, the PWRDF grant may be used to reimburse both the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Kelowna, B.C., and St. George’s in West Kelowna, B.C., who mobilized to distribute emergency food supply to evacuated individuals and families in the area. 

St. Mary’s Sorrento and St. David’s Celista parishes were also evacuated during the fires along with the clergy, and PWRDF funds may also be used to support these families.  

“…We begin again,” wrote Archbishop Lynne. In her letter, she requests prayers for the Diocese, first responders, and all who lost their homes and property in the fires.  

How you can help

You can donate to directly to the In-Canada Emergency fund at any time. You can also mail a cheque to PWRDF at 80 Hayden Street, 3rd floor, Toronto, ON, M4Y 3G2. Please indicate In-Canada Emergency in the memo field. You may also donate during business hours by calling 416-822-9083 (or leave a message toll-free at 1-866-308-7973) and we will return your call.

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For media requests please contact Communications Coordinator Janice Biehn at (416) 924-9199;366.

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