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Tk’emlups Powwow Grounds providing safehaven for evacuees

An outpouring of generousity and support has been shown this month at the Tk’emlups Powwow Grounds.
Volunteers Lachanda Manuel (from left), emergency operations centre director Thomas Blank and Shyla Hazelwood man the registration and information booth at the Tk’emlups Indian Band Powwow Grounds. (Greg Sabatino photo)

Since evacuation orders began earlier this month in communities throughout the province, the Tk’emlups Indian Band Powwow Grounds has opened its arms graciously providing a place for displaced residents to stay.

Thomas Blank, emergency operations centre director at the site, said they wanted to do everything in their power to ensure the thousands of people there were as comfortable as possible.

“We want to help reduce the stresses and other potential issues of being evacuated,” Blank told the Tribune. “And to try to provide emergency information so people know what’s going on in their home communities.”

While some who were staying at the powwow grounds have since been allowed to return to their homes, the site was still a busy one on Tuesday afternoon.

“There are still a lot of people here from communities like Williams Lake,” he said. “It’s a blessing when you run into friends from your own community but because of the circumstances it’s also difficult. It’s truly been a great team effort to make this happen.”

One thing Blank said the Kamloops Indian Band tried to focus on was providing fun activities for youth during their stay.

“We had slip and slides, all kinds of activities - just to have fun for the kids,” he said. “Then we had some of the elders up at the Sk’elep School, movie entertainment evenings and, today, some people went out to the Quaaout Lodge (at the Shuswap).”

Blank said there’s been a tremendous amount of support received from volunteers doing various jobs from manning registration desks, providing water and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis.

“It’s an overwhelming amount of support,” he said. “Not just the volunteers but people who’ve been dropping off clothing, food, water, trailers for us to use and things like that.”

He credited the multiple Lions and Lioness Clubs who helped prepare meals, along with Jamie Leighton from Pork Mafia in Delta for doing an exceptional job.

“(Jamie’s) been providing the bulk of the meals the past few days - breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said. “It’s very appreciated and we’re extremely thankful and humbled to be provided all the services here at the Tk’emlups Powwow Grounds.”

Blank said he’s hopeful the winds and weather co-operate in the days and weeks to come so crews are able to get more of a handle on some of the larger wildfires burning throughout the province.

“We’re hopeful the evacuees are able to go home by the weekend,” he said.

“We know it’s hard to be evacuated. The unknown that comes with it, the stresses and anxiety so we’re just providing services to help them feel welcome in our territory.”

He thanked the entire team for helping bring everything together for everyone staying at the powwow grounds.

“It’s been long hours, long days, making sure everyone stays hydrated and rejuvenated and we’re happy to be able to provide that.”

Greg Sabatino

About the Author: Greg Sabatino

Greg Sabatino graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelor of Journalism degree in 2008.
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