Georgina is a Merritt resident originally from Lytton, BC, and calls both communities home. She is one of the hundreds of people who lost their possessions when the Lytton Creek Wildfire tore through and destroyed the small town on June 30th.
“That’s my hometown, the whole town is my family,” Georgina said. “I’m going through a lot right now, not only with the people in my community, I’m going through my own devastation and also having my two sons on the fire line. It’s just sheer fear. You’re scared you’re going to lose somebody, you already know you lost your homes. The devastation doesn’t end.”
Many of the evacuees fled the Lytton fire without their belongings, and found refuge in Merritt. With support from the United for BC Wildfire Recovery Fund, the Nicola Valley Food Bank stepped up for those evacuees, providing essential items including food, clothing, hygiene products and toys for those who have been displaced, have lost their housing and belongings, and who are suffering from physical or mental health trauma.
Stronger United: Community Groups Come Together
“We were approached by some donors who were looking for a place to drop off donations. We had to do something, so we contacted the Elks of Canada and the rest is history,” said Derlanda Hewton, the food bank’s general manager. “They provided us with Elks Hall to use as a distribution centre. Over a month later, we’re still able to provide this service.”
Elks Hall was quickly filled with thousands of items, such as clothes of all sizes, toys, food, water, and other necessities.
“We’re open every day, and the first thing we do is check to see the availability of items and what is missing,” says Wasim, a volunteer with the food bank. “When people come here and can’t find what they need, they ask and we write it down to prepare it for them as soon as we can get it.”
After weeks of generously supporting evacuees, the people of Merritt were put on an evacuation alert of their own. In anticipation of leaving their homes, residents of Merritt turned to their neighbouring communities for support.
“The community in Merritt is a living embodiment of our philosophy, ‘United we are stronger,’” says Michael McKnight, President and CEO of United Way British Columbia.
Wildfire Fund Helps Fill the Gaps
Thanks to the United for BC Wildfire Recovery Fund, the food bank can provide specialty items such as medication and food that meets special dietary needs.
“United Way with their wildfire fund is providing such relief for the food bank. It’s not in our budget to purchase these products, so this extra funding will allow us to be able to do it for the evacuees,” Hewton says. “United Way has been there whenever we have had a need. Our heartfelt thanks go out to them whenever there’s a situation happening.”
The relief, in turn, is felt by evacuees.
We are All Family
“It’s hard to lose your home, or your farm and animals,” says Wasim. “So we try to make them feel better with what we try to support.”
Georgina has been making regular trips to Lytton since the evacuation order was lifted to deliver essential items to those who have returned home.
“I just keep going because it keeps my mind off of everything. Off of all the devastation. It just makes me help my family more. That’s all we are, is family. I have no choice but to help them,” she says, working to help rebuild her community. “How many years is it going to take for the community to get back together?”
Thousands of BC residents have evacuated their homes due to increasing danger from the wildfires. To help them rebuild thier lives with dignity, please consider donating to the United For BC Wildfire Recovery Fund today.