‘Such a beautiful feeling,’ organizer says as donations pour in for Manitoba wildfire evacuees

Support is pouring in for the more than 2,000 evacuees forced to leave their homes in eastern Manitoba First Nations as more wildfires burn in the area.

As of Sunday, there are 139 active wildfires in the province, including a small cluster of fires roughly 10 kilometres from Bloodvein First Nation, a spokesperson from the Manitoba Wildfire Service says.

Virginia Thomas lives there and is taking it upon herself to ensure her fellow community members have some comforts in their Winnipeg hotel rooms as they wait for it to be safe to return home.

“As members of the community we’re trying to do our part in helping our people,” she said.

That work is paying off.

Virginia Thomas says she’s grateful so many people have responded to her request for donations to help support community members of Bloodvein First Nation. (Radja Mahamba/Radio-Canada)

“The donations have been flooding in … seriously, a great amount,” Thomas said.

“It got very overwhelming. It finally hit me and I started to shed tears giving thanks for all the generosity, the kindness, the phone calls, the text messages … They’ve been flooding in.”

Thomas is mostly looking for items for children — such as toys, snacks, bubble bath and clothing, but no crayons or markers as their hotel won’t allow it.

“We asked for children’s items because we want to keep the children busy while they’re in their hotel rooms,” she said.

That’s because children are used to going outside to play in Bloodvein First Nation where there is a lot of open space and very few cars, but aren’t used to living in large urban centres.

Daniel Campbell is a father of four children under six from Bloodvein and said he picked up some donations for his kids.

“They give out quite a bit, and it’s very helpful.”

If interested, you can drop of the donations at the Quest Inn Hotel on Ellice Avenue. You can contact 204-807-0891 if you have questions. 

Other organizations helping

The Canadian Red Cross is helping community members from six First Nations to ensure they have places to stay and food.

“Our team is working with the leadership of each of the first nations to make sure they have what they need,” said Jason Small, a spokesperson from the Red Cross.

That includes mental health supports, which people can access by visiting reception desks the Red Cross has set up.

He says they can’t accept donations of goods and services because they’re funded by the federal government to provide emergency assistance.

A wildfire tears through trees near Bloodvein First Nation. The community was evacuated earlier this week. (Submitted by Ryan Klassen)

The Southeast Resource Development Council, which represents many of the First Nations affected by the fire, is also accepting donations of goods and resources and coordinating dispersing it to those in need.

“It’s such a beautiful feeling to have all this help from the people,” says Thomas.

On top of the tangible gifts, she hopes people will offer something intangible.

“I just want prayers that we overcome this and the fire. We need rain,” she said.

“So many people want to go home.”

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