Imagine having only a few moments to grab your belongings before running out of your home for the last time. The last time you would ever see the painting that hung over the sofa again. The last time you would see the handwritten dates and names on the wall that you have been using as a growth chart for your children again.
I couldn’t and would never want to imagine this.
The hard truth is this is exactly what happened to the people living in Slave Lake, Alberta.
Seeing the pictures and hearing the stories trickle in of the devastation of the Slave Lake Fires really touched my heart. Six digital moms in Edmonton started accepting donations to benefit the residents of Slave Lake and put out a plea on Twitter for volunteers. This prompted me into action. I decided to spend a day volunteering my time to help. My mom and nephew came out to volunteer as well.
We honestly had no idea what we were getting into.
We walked through the door of the hall and looked on in awe. There were piles and piles of garbage bags filled with donations that needed to be sorted. There were tables of clothes that were already sorted. These needed to be put into boxes, labeled and organized neatly needed to be later moved to the donated space at Sentinel Self-Storage*. I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of donations. I turned to Meaghan with a deer in head lights look. She simply stated: “You should have been here in the beginning of the week, this is nothing.” Apparently, they couldn’t even move in the hall due to the amount of donations. Edmontonians truly have huge hearts when it comes to helping others.
I got into my groove sorting and boxing clothing. I was amazed to see the amount of people who came down to the hall to donate, volunteer and even bring us food and coffee. There was an energy, a buzz in the hall that is hard to explain. Some of the moms (and children) had been working non-stop, volunteering 12-16 hours a day for almost a week. They were exhausted, but smiling, laughing and in good spirits. It seemed like the end goal of handing over the donations to the families carried them through.
It’s almost like the universe was smiling on us that day.
While the boxes were piling up, we started to question how we’d move the mountain of boxes over to the storage space. Although, they didn’t voice it out loud, I could tell that stress was rising in the room. Out of nowhere, a man showed up with a large U-haul truck. He had rented a truck to help. When we asked his name, he wouldn’t tell us. He said that he just wanted to assist us and be totally anonymous. We were all overwhelmed by emotion. What a kind soul. If you are reading this post, thank you so much!
We started putting the boxes into the trucks, using our finely honed Tetris skills. It must have been a sight to behold. There were 10 women passing boxes from one hand to the next. Most of the women were wearing their babies and toddlers on their backs in baby carriers. It was amazing. As the trucks became full to the brim with boxes, it became obvious that we wouldn’t be able to fit everything into one locker. Thankfully, Sentinel was kind enough to offer us even more space.
With all of the extra help, what looked like an overnight job was actually done by 8:00pm. Everyone’s assistance helped these courageous moms spend much needed time with their families and finally get a good night’s sleep.
I spent 7 hours volunteering that day. It was a day of laughter, tears and the amazing feeling that comes over your whole being when you know that in some little way, you have made someone else’s life a little brighter.
I hope that these donations help the families in Slave Lake remember a little comfort while knowing that our hearts go out to them.
Jennifer Banks- Business Development
*Sentinel Self Storage is one of our clients here at Top Draw. When #yeg collections mentioned they needed to store donations somewhere temporarily, we immediately thought of them. We were thrilled to get the space donated and neither Jennifer nor Top Draw were compensated for writing this post.