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Vernon businesswomen create donation centre for firefighters, evacuees

Community comes together to provide for heroes and those in need during devastating wildfires
A donation centre has been opened at Vernon’s ESS reception centre at Kal Tire Place Arena for wildfire evacuees and firefighters, spearheaded by a pair of Vernon businesswomen who opened the centre Monday morning, Aug. 21, 2023. (Alison Ludditt photo)

A group of Vernon businesswomen have come up with their own way to lend a hand with the ongoing wildfire situation.

Alison Ludditt, Lisa Gallie and Li Fryling have opened a donation centre to support the hundreds of evacuees from the Central Okanagan who have arrived at Vernon’s Emergency Support Service (ESS) reception centre at Kal Tire Place Arena.

With wildfires raging in the Central Okanagan and Shuswap, Ludditt, like many other Vernonites, desperately wanted to help in some way. However, Vernon’s ESS had all the volunteers it needed.

Ludditt heard from a friend who was an ESS volunteer that donations of food, clothes and other items were needed, but the city couldn’t accomodate the collection.

After Gallie began inviting people to drop off donations at her store, Big Sun, Ludditt — owner of The Room Collection —had the idea to offer up her furniture warehouse to collect, sort and store donated items.

People are welcome to come by the back of the warehouse at 907 Kalamalka Lake Rd., where already a team of volunteers has come out of the woodwork to accept donations.

“People are just itching to do something to help,” Ludditt said. “We all feel so lucky and so grateful that this year it’s not us, and the minute Lisa put out the word to drop donations at Big Sun, people started showing up. And then as soon as we said we have a warehouse for your stuff, they came in droves.”

The women have set up a “free store” at Kal Tire Place — a trailer filled with donated goods that evacuees and firefighters can help themselves to.

They started the initiative Monday morning and will be at the warehouse tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., when the free store will also be available.

“It’s been unbelievable. Businesses that have shown up with $1,000 to $2,000 worth of donations, and just all the humans that are really wanting to help, they show up with boxes of diapers and juice boxes and snacks for the firefighters,” said Ludditt, adding Vegpro in Lavington donated 700 bags of salad yesterday.

Ludditt knew there would be evacuees forced from their homes in need of basic items, but was surprised to learn that the firefighters are in need of items too.

“They are not being nourished as well as they should be,” she said. “They are getting meals but they need energy drinks and protein bars and chocolate and all these things just to boost them up, because they are working 18 hours at a time.”

Firefighters are also in need of fresh fruit and vegetables, Ludditt said.

While the women have been authorized by Vernon’s ESS to bring donations to Kal Tire Place, no one else has that authorization. The women are asking people to bring donations to the warehouse as the ESS does not have the resources to process donated items.

All donations must be new, as required by the ESS.

Check out the Instagram accounts of Big Sun and The Room Collection for updates on which items are needed at a given time.

Items currently in need include:

• Men’s and women’s clothing

• Baby formula

• Bottles of juice, pop

• Protein drinks in plastic bottles

• shampoo, conditioner, hair brushes

• Soap and deodorant (male and female)

• Diapers

• Phone chargers

Ludditt says the team will continue to help for as long as needed, and with more firefighters coming to the area, she expects the need to last “for quite a while.”

READ MORE: Evacuation orders remain as Crater Creek wildfire near Keremeos grows

READ MORE: More than 3,000 homes saved from McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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