Rock Creek fire evacuees shown remarkable kindness in Midway
'It was just heart-warming to see the way that everybody stepped up to help,' says Midway resident
A mom-and-pop operation in Midway, B.C. shut down this week to focus its attention entirely on feeding displaced fire evacuees and hard-at-work firefighters.
RJ and Tom Lesher run the family restaurant, Bored Room Bistro, in the small village of 600 people.
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As soon as news of the Rock Creek evacuation order hit, RJ knew what she had to do.
"Didn't even think twice," she said.
"We just went and turned the signs, and locked our doors, and made the phone calls and said, 'Alright. We're here. Just start sending it in.'"
A community effort
Over the weekend, RJ said the bistro fed 300 to 400 people for nearly every meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving pizza, lamb balls with mushroom gravy, rice pilaf and scalloped potatoes.
"For the first couple of days, it was just the restaurant. We just emptied our stock and our supplies."
But then the community began to step up.
Local grocery stores have provided fresh produce, thousands of sandwiches and gift certificates to purchase supplies. Businesses in Grand Forks, Penticton and Surrey shipped up thousands of pounds of potatoes and carrots, she said.
The Leshers have been putting in 18-hour days, and not just Tom and RJ. "Our granddaughter, she's 11. She gets up with us at 4:30 in the morning, comes and cracks eggs and helps with all the breakfasts."
"We even opened our house and had people come through and shower, and do laundry, and sleep over, and just get out of the chaos and have a little bit of normality."
Local residents open their doors
RJ insists she isn't some kind of anomaly in Midway. Nearly everyone in the community has offered a helping hand.
Catherine Stewart is just one other example.
"We had almost 500 people from the campground, from all over Canada and Europe arrived, many of them just in their bathing suits having fled the fire that just roared into the park so quickly," said Midway resident Stewart.
"People for days were really terrified," she said. "There was a little boy whose mom was coming in to try and get treats for him and lure him out of the truck. I think he felt the truck was the safest place to be.
"We just took it from there and went at it and made sure everyone had a place to stay and had clothes on their back, had food in their bellies and did all we could to help," she said.
This remarkable community spirit is the reason RJ and her husband moved to Midway in the first place, she said.
"We're lucky to have this community."
RJ says the restaurant plans to re-open for regular business on Friday, unless there's another local emergency.
"If it happens again, we'll do the exact same thing."
To hear the full interview with RJ Lesher, listen to the audio labelled: Local restaurant opens arms to firefighters and fire evacuees.
To hear the full interview with Catherine Stewart, listen to the audio labelled: Feeding, housing Rock Creek evacuees.