Two women in the Cariboo who had homes rebuilt after the 2017 wildfires by Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS) were happy to learn the Salvation Army has donated $100,000 toward building materials.
“I’m glad the Salvation Army has made this donation because that means more people can be helped,” said Joan Scheffler during a small celebration at Williams Lake city hall Friday, Jan. 25, where the donation was acknowledged and celebrated by MDS.
“My house is wonderful and lovely and I am enjoying it,” said Scheffler who moved into her new home off the Spokin Lake Road in October 2018.
Sandi Chilton said MDS built her a wheelchair accessible home on her property in the Spokin Lake Road area because her daughter Pam MacDonald lives with her and requires full-time care as a result of being in a car accident in 2012.
On July 7, 2017, when wildfires started in the Cariboo Chilcotin, Chilton and MacDonald were doing errands in Williams Lake.
Chilton had arranged for a load of lumber to be delivered that day because she was getting an addition put on her trailer.
While returning home that afternoon, they were turned away at the Spokin Lake Road because the area was being evacuated.
They went to stay with family on the Likely Road, and remained there until they were evacuated on July 15.
“I learned on July 22 my home was gone,” Chilton said. “Then in September, Stephanie Masun at the Cariboo Regional District kept insisting I phone MDS. When I finally did, I could not believe that someone was going to help me build a home.”
MDS volunteers built two other homes in the region — one in Riske Creek and one at Big Creek, west of Williams Lake in the Chilcotin.
Between May 20 to Nov. 2, 2018, there were 236 volunteers involved — 194 from Canada and 42 from the U.S. for a total of 2,961 days.
The total costs for food, tools, vehicles, leadership volunteer travel and materials was $486,750 and during the celebration Friday, MC John Longhurst also credited Home Hardware, United Concrete and Sprucelee Construction in Williams Lake for their support.
Salvation Army Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Jamie Braund said the $100,000 came from donations the Salvation Army received toward its provincial wildfire relief fund from people all across B.C. in 2017.
“For the past year and a half our provincial office has been working with 10 communities across the province that were impacted by the wildfires to provide financial assistance,” Braund said.
Ross Penner, executive director of MDS Canadian operations, thanked Braund for the donation and said it will go toward building materials 100 per cent.
“It was very important to us that we receive this gift in this community that owns its recovery and has been so significant,” Penner said. “I want to say a huge thank you to the community. It has been such a privilege to be part of the recovery here with the churches, with the businesses and local government.”
Mayor Walt Cobb said the 2017 wildfires brought the community together.
“I think that’s the good thing that comes out of any disaster and I really appreciate the work the churches in town did, particularly to house the MDS volunteers at Cariboo Bethel Church so they could have a place to work out of and be together,” Cobb said. “A big thank you to everyone that was involved.”
Pastor Jeremy Vogt from Cariboo Bethel said the 2017 wildfire season changed the city and the region.
“It is always revealing to watch how a community responds to the challenges and the crises we face,” Vogt said. “What I discovered is that we are a hardworking, community-minded, resilient and resourceful people who can make it through just about anything because we come together in a crisis.”
Vogt said the response of the community was supported massively by outside agencies that arrived and offered material, financial and human resources.