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Winfield Bakery fundraiser a heart-warming venture for shop owner

More than $4,000 will be raised when the final total is in from a one-day fundraiser for Fort McMurray fire victims
Winfield Bakery and Coffee Coleen Day hands over some goodies to young Levi Blaskovits as mom Kate watches during a Wednesday fundraiser for Fort McMurray.

Late one night, as Winfield Bakery and Coffee owner Fritz Priwall was busy baking goods for the next day at his Main Street bakery, he was struck by inspiration.

The Fort McMurray fire was fresh in the news and residents in that Alberta town were scrambling after a mass evacuation.

Priwall figured he had to do something.

"A lot of people from Winfield, from Lake Country and around the valley work over there; we are connected to Fort McMurray," said Priwall, who has owned the bakery that opened in 1978 for the past nine years. "I was working one night and at around 2 in the morning I just thought I should do something."

So Priwall along with his employees at the bakery and with the help of customers from up and down the Okanagan Valley, joined forces to donate what will likely be close to $10,000 to fire victims in Fort McMurray.

Proceeds from sales at the bakery on Wednesday as well as staff wages will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross. As of Thursday the total raised for sales sat at $3,700 with more donations expected to come in from businesses who made large purchases and were raising money to donate to the cause. Add in the staff wages and the federal government's matching of the donation and you have a significant amount of money raised in one day.

"It makes me very proud to be the owner of this business," said Priwall. "It makes me proud of my customers and my staff. It's just amazing to hear what people said. The response is heartwarming."

Winfield Bakery doubled its usual business on a Wednesday and thanks to the reach of social media, Okanagan residents from near and far stopped by the bakery to purchase goods.

"It was a huge success," said Priwall. "People from all over the valley came, from Vernon and Kelowna and Lake Country. There were lots of locals and our regular customers."

Among those who stopped in the store was Lake Country resident Kate Blaskovits, whose entire family was in for some treats.

"I think this is incredible seeing a nice, small business like this donating to a great cause," she said.

Reaction to the fundraiser was positive on the bakery's Facebook page as well with Priwall saying it gave him goosebumps to read people's thoughts.

"So proud to have been a part of this wonderful bakery for so many years. The bakery may be small, but the staff have huge hearts! Much love to Fritz, Coleen, and Lisa," commented Shanna Kay.

"Wow awesome support. We thank you out here in Alberta," said Lana Evans.

Priwall said one post on his Facebook business page received 53,000 clicks and the original posting was shared over 1,000 times, pointing to the reach of social media.

For Priwall, it was a gesture he says he would do again if needed and he feels others would do the same for this area.

"You never know, maybe it doesn't happen to me or you but if it does, someone will step up," he said. "Humanity exists. People love to help out."

Winfield Bakery and Coffee is located on Main Street in Lake Country.