British Columbia

Kamloops women set up donation centre for wildfire evacuees

Six women have joined together to run a temporary donation centre out of a Kamloops hotel, providing clothing, food and toiletries to those forced to evacuate their homes because of wildfires in B.C.’s interior.

'Just to be able to give somebody a hug and know that they care, that's a huge thing,' says evacuee

Allie Okino (left) of Cache Creek hugs Jamie Maclean, one of the six Kamloops women who worked together to open a donation centre in a local hotel. (Pete Scobie/CBC)

Six women have joined together to run a temporary donation centre out of a Kamloops hotel, providing clothing, food and toiletries to those forced to evacuate their homes because of wildfires in B.C.'s Interior.

The six friends used social media to spread the word, gather donations and combine their efforts.

"We were collecting stuff in our homes and we decided, 'let's find somewhere where we can put it all and hand it out to people'," said Dusti Naud. 

Kerri Fournier organizes some of the donations they have received from individuals and businesses. "I love helping people," she said. (Pete Scobie/CBC)

The women were offered space in the local Sandman Signature Hotel, and when word got out about their efforts, local businesses and others from outside the province began donating items as well.

'Absolutely astonishing'

"Independent grocers donated 15 pallets of food and stuff yesterday, Pip & Pea [Clothing] dropped off 16 bags of clothing that had been donated to them … we had people come in from Fort Mac that dropped off gift cards and stuff for us to hand out," Naud said.

Jamie Maclean, another of the six friends, said they've also received gift bags that have been personalized for men, women, and families.

"The community has been absolutely astonishing with their donations, with their support," Maclean said.

She estimates hundreds of evacuees have used the donation centre. It's open each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The women organized the temporary centre even though the Canadian Red Cross is encouraging people to make financial donations instead of donating clothing and other items.

Kimberley Nemrava, the agency's vice president for B.C. and Yukon, previously told CBC News that "donations of goods are much harder to manage and much harder to move around."

Nemrava said financial donations to the Red Cross will go towards providing financial assistance, cots, blankets, and family reunification services,

People 'need us,' says volunteer.

But the women running the temporary donation centre in Kamloops said they are helping evacuees during a difficult time. 

"We're here for the people that need us," Maclean said.

"What we were hearing was, 'This is what we need: we need clothes, we need food, we need toiletries, and we're not receiving them.' So we took it upon ourselves. We want them to feel comfortable and have the basic needs while going through this time." 

Jenn Eaton, who was at the centre July 12 to look for some clothing for her husband and children, said she was thankful for what the six women are doing.

"Being from Cache Creek, we've gone through a lot in the last couple of years, and seeing people from Kamloops do this, it's amazing," Eaton said.

Jenn Eaton, one of the evacuees from Cache Creek, says it was "amazing" to see the outpouring of support from people in Kamloops. (Pete Scobie/CBC)

She was not the only one offering praise to the six friends when CBC News visited the hotel.

Allie Okino, who had to evacuate her home in Cache Creek, gave Maclean a hug.

"It's amazing that people are willing to help," Okino said.

"Just to be able to give somebody a hug and know that they care, that's a huge thing." 

With files from Belle Puri and Rhianna Schmunk

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