Employees at a Calgary company who spent a month collecting donations for victims of the Slave Lake fire are upset that some of the items ended up in a Calgary landfill.
"For us it's very disheartening. This was an employee-led initiative," said Saphina Benimadhu, a spokeswoman for Total E&P Canada Ltd.
"We had every good intention that these goods would reach the victims of Slave Lake. It's very sad for the victims of Slave Lake who could have used this stuff, but also disheartening for employees."
The dumped donations were photographed by Calgary garbage hauler Paul Nielsen, who said he was sickened when he discovered them at the Spyhill landfill earlier this week.
And to make matters worse, Nielsen said, when he alerted a supervisor at the landfill about what he had discovered, the products were buried rather than salvaged because the dump has a no-scavenging policy.
Nielsen said the boxes were clearly marked for donation to relief efforts in Slave Lake, Alta., where fires earlier this year left hundreds of people homeless. He said there were video games, children's clothing still on the store hangers, a crib, coats and new blankets.
Company left boxes at storage facility
According to labels on the boxes, the material was donated by Total E&P Canada Ltd.
Employees had held a month-long drive to collect donations for Slave Lake victims. They carefully packed up the collection and addressed it to the Red Cross, and called their internal courier to take it away.
The Red Cross, though, does not accept items for donation, only cash, so someone passed along a list of drop-off sites in the city, including Melissa Gunning's site at Sentinel Storage.
Gunning is from the Slave Lake region and has friends who lost homes to the blaze, but she lives in Calgary.
When the fires hit in May, she felt compelled to help. So she and her colleagues — juggling children and self-employment — launched a city-wide campaign to collect donations for Slave Lake residents, including blankets, clothing and toothbrushes.
She rented two storage bins at Sentinel Storage and Arcan Resources helped to cover the cost. They sent out huge trucks of items to Slave Lake, and still more donations poured in, she said. Emergency workers in Edmonton soon told her to donate some of what was collected to local charities, which she tried to do.
Overwhelmed by donations
"We still had all this stuff left in storage. Nobody would come and pick it up and unfortunately we couldn't get anybody else to drive it," said Gunning.
This past weekend, swamped by the donations from the campaign, Gunning hired some help. A junk removal company was hired to go through the remaining storage bins and sort what was good to a local charity and take the rest to the dump.
"I am very upset about it," she said when reached Wednesday. "We paid for the service for them to take some of the load off of us."
Gunning, who hasn't been able to reach the junk removal company, said she wasn't aware that new items and labelled boxes ended up at the dump until she was contacted by CBC News.