Christmas market brings cheer to Dunrobin tornado victims

West Carleton Disaster Relief is holding a series of special Christmas markets for people who lost their homes and belongings in September.

Free, donated decorations help replace what was lost

Rochelle Fowler says family mementoes and Christmas decorations were among the losses when her home was destroyed in the September tornado in the west Ottawa community of Dunrobin. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

West Carleton Disaster Relief is holding a series of special Christmas markets for people who lost their homes and belongings in September's tornado.

The local relief group is holding the market so people who registered with the organization can pick up holiday decorations for free — with the priority on people whose homes were destroyed.

Rochelle Fowler still gets choked up thinking about the destruction of her Dunrobin home and counts the fact that her family is together for the holiday as a blessing.

"It's special to have these things and to be able to [be] like normal," she said.

"Even though you're not in your home. It's still Christmas and Christmas is always an important holiday in our family."

She picked up decorations at the market and plans on getting a real tree, which she'll decorate with bows and lights instead of ornaments.

She said the ornaments made by her eight-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter were among her family's losses.

The West Carleton Disaster Relief Christmas Market is being held at the Kinburn Community Centre at 3045 Kinburn Side Road. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

"We have lost those, like the first Christmas and the different ornaments that family members have given the children as they were growing up," she said.

"You miss those sorts of things, but, like I said, we're together."

Fowler said her son was ecstatic to see the elf on the shelf found him at their temporary home in Kanata.

Carloads of donations

Alex Lesnick, a co-chair of West Carleton Disaster Relief, was the lead organizer of the Christmas market.

She said the response to the call for donations in a simple social media post was overwhelming.

"We did one [donation drop-off] on Wednesday of last week and we stopped counting at 30 cars," she said.

She expects trees and ornaments will be the most demanded items. 

Alex Lesnick, co-chair of West Carleton Disaster Relief, says the group has been overwhelmed by donations of trees, ornaments and other Christmas decorations for tornado victims. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

"It's really expensive to replace all of your Christmas stuff at once, so [we'll do] anything we can do to kind of take that stress off," Lesnick said.

"Overall, it's the challenge of not being in your home at Christmas. A lot of our traditions are based on being in our family homes."

The relief group is still accepting donations at the Kinburn Community Centre from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

The market will be held again Tuesday evening for people whose homes were destroyed and Wednesday for other registered victims.

West Carleton Disaster Relief has also planned a Christmas turkey dinner with about 200 people registered for Dec. 15 at Fitzroy Harbour.