One of two local Emergency Social Services directors, Alida Erickson says she trained around 40 new volunteers on Tuesday and had a full class on Wednesday. (Dustin Godfrey/Western News)

No shortage of volunteers at Penticton evac centre

Along with volunteers, ESS directors report a steady flow of donations to the evacuation centre

Though Penticton has only received a fraction of the nearly 40,000 displaced by wildfires in B.C., there has been little shortage of volunteers and offers of help.

Over 200 people have sought refuge in Penticton, most of whom are staying with family or friends, according to Emergency Social Services director Alida Erickson. She taught two classes for volunteers looking to help process paperwork for evacuees registering at the local evacuation reception centre this week.

Related: CRD announces 41 homes lost to date in the Cariboo

“I had 40 people in the class last night We have another class for this evening, which is full,” Erickson said on Wednesday. “I think we’re going to get some phenomenal volunteers out of the group. People were keen, they were understanding quickly. They were there because they wanted to be there.

“And we’ve had several people already from last night’s class showing up for shifts today, so they’re learning on the fly and it’s wonderful.”

A volunteer named Claire said she had volunteered before, but had been asked to jump in, again, because of the high need in the current situation.

“I volunteered because I like being involved in the community and they need a lot of people down here,” she said “I feel for people in this particular situation because they probably just lost everything, although they don’t even know, actually, whether their house is still there.”

Related: The health impacts on evacuees

While the two classes have come and gone, Erickson said those still interesting in volunteering with the evacuation centre may still have some opportunities.

“If you’re still interested in coming down to volunteer, you’re welcome to come down to the reception centre and fill out a volunteer registration form,” she said. “If things keep on developing, we will phone you when we set up another class, which will probably be next week.”

For Claire, there’s little difference in volunteering for a local cause and one providing help to those who are coming from far off in the province. Erickson agreed, noting that it hasn’t been difficult for many to put themselves in the shoes of evacuees coming to town.

“I think the Fort McMurray fires last year really made people realize that that acould happen to anyone of us,” she said. “Then when you hear of fires as close as the Kaleden fire was … and we all have friends or family somewhere, and you think of them having to evacuate. … It appeals to the good side of people.”

Related: 195 registered with Penticton evac centre

Beyond volunteers, the ESS has been receiving offers of help of all kinds from various community members, from Starbucks coffee by the bucket to clothing donations.

“There’s an awful lot of people who have come by and ask can we use anything, can they donate anything, are they able to help in any way,” she said, noting that there’s even been a bit of an excess in some donations.

“Some things we aren’t able to take advantage of at the moment, regarding donated clothing and that sort of thing, because we have no place for storage.”

Among those offering their services, Time Flies Indoor Play operator Tricia Hernes is offering a space for evacuees with kids 10 and under to play and relieve a bit of stress.

“We’re offering free indoor play for anybody who’s been evacuated. Obviously, for kids it’s a really hard situation for them to understand, and play is the best type of therapy for kids,” Hernes said.

“We’re really looking to offer a home away from home, so any evacuees that are coming to the area from any of the fires nearby, they can come for a complimentary play and then they can stay as long as they want.”

Related: Challenge Penticton means few hotel rooms for evacuees

That’s redeemable by bringing papers from an evacuation centre proving you’ve been registered as an evacuee.

And while it’s still early days, Hernes said she’s already heard from one family.

“We just had our first call from a family that’s been evacuated from Clearwater, so they’re looking to come, get away with their kids,” Hernes said. “(It’s a) slow trickle, because I think Penticton’s just starting to get the trickle of evacuees.”

While Erickson said the Fort McMurray fire last year was a reason some felt urged to volunteer, Hernes, too, said she got the idea, in part, from the massive Alberta blaze.

“Quite a few of the families (from Fort McMurray) were from here or had family here and were coming back here until they knew that they could go home,” she said.

“Quite a few of the families were coming in here, and this became a sort of home base for a lot of them.”

Read more: UNDER EVACUATION: Black Press’s 10-part series wildfire evacuations


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Time Flies Indoor Play owner Tricia Hernes has offered free playtime for children who have fled fire-struck areas of B.C. with their families. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Just Posted

Owner of Little Acre Fruit Stand recounts ‘flames popping up everywhere’ from wildfire near Peachland

The Mount Eneas wildfire is burning at about 200 hectares south of Peachland

Smoky skies causes Okanagan-wide air quality issues

Central Okanagan pushed to high risk

Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire burns overnight

The wildfire across the lake from Peachland is burning at 200 hectares

Complete list of B.C. Interior wildfire coverage

Up-to-date information on blazes happening the Kamloops Wildfire Centre

Heavy traffic delays on Highway 97 due to wildfire near Peachland

Peachland - Evacuation orders have been issued for Brent Road and Highway 97 South properties

Breaking: More evacuation orders for Mount Eneas wildfire, south of Peachland

The BC Wildfire Service is battling a large wildfire alongside Highway 97 in Peachland.

After cave rescue, soccer boys pray for protection at Thai temple

On Wednesday evening, the boys and coach were released from hospital

Gymnastics sex abuse victims join hands, accept courage award at ESPYs

The women who spoke out against the abuse by Larry Nassar stood together Wednesday night

Fire in backcountry near Keremeos reaches 400 hectares in size

Two significant fires are burning in the Lower Similkameen, smoke can be seen as far away as Osoyoos

Update: Summerland wildfire forces PIB state of emergency

More than 40 firefighters are on scene of the wildfire near Mount Conkle, just outside of Summerland.

Hockey trip fraudster receives house arrest

Man duped 16 families with Okanagan Elite Hockey Association out of over $100,000

Four wild fires still burning near Keremeos

One fire was extinguished and another reported after lightning came through area

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Installers to battle Team B.C.

Exhibition men’s fastball Saturday in Vernon

Most Read