Volunteers share skills, supplies with Ottawa-area storm victims

Talented carpenters, arborists, cooks, drivers, therapists and babysitters are offering their supplies and services to those affected by the tornadoes that struck the Ottawa-Gatineau region on Sept. 21.

Matchmaking required to pair offers of skilled trades and supplies with those in need

Residents and volunteers help move furniture from a home destroyed in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Dunrobin on Monday, Sept. 24. (CBC)

Talented carpenters, arborists, cooks, drivers, therapists and babysitters are offering their services and supplies to those affected by the tornadoes that struck the Ottawa-Gatineau region on Sept. 21.

Eli El-Chantiry, the city councillor for the Dunrobin area, said it was a pleasant surprise Monday morning when about 70 volunteers showed up at the West Carleton Secondary School to help out.

Contractors and organized groups — including a Mennonite crew from Southern Ontario — arrived at the emergency shelter centre with hammers, air compressors and chainsaws to be put to work.

But organizers are attempting to efficiently co-ordinate all this help, so those wishing to pitch in need to check in first. Only trained and skilled workers in certain fields are being allowed into the site.

"You don't want to turn volunteers away, but we can't just let anyone in at that time," El-Chantiry said. "It's still a restricted area at the time being.

"I want to thank the people who (are) coming to help. But please, we can't take everybody at this time today. Check in first."

Residents are combing through the wreckage of their homes and reaching out to help neighbours after tornadoes ripped through Ottawa-Gatineau on Sept. 21. 2:47

Approved volunteers are given "green passes" to allow them to travel inside neighbourhoods currently barricaded and monitored by police.

Ron Wilson, a local contractor, arrived Monday morning and was paired with a resident who planned to put Wilson and his crew to work.

Contractor Ron Wilson volunteers his services to residents whose houses were damaged by the tornado on Sept. 21. (Krystalle Ramlakhan, CBC)

"We understand from the homeowner it's sheeting the roof with tarps and [putting] some plywood on some windows that are broken, just generally going over to see what's wrong," said Wilson.

Social media co-ordination

The Dunrobin Disaster Assistance Group is asking volunteers on their Facebook page to post their "availability, skills and the equipment you can bring."

The more than 150 posts to the site on Monday afternoon included offers of stress management and counselling services, general labour, deliveries, equipment, food and clothing.

Another area of the city looking for help is Arlington Woods, in the Greenbank/Craig Henry area. It was hit by a second tornado that touched down Friday evening.

'We need people with chainsaws'

The president of the local community association, Sean Devine, put out his own request on Twitter.

"We need people with chainsaws and then just hands to bring stuff out," Devine said in an interview. "A lot of people are already bringing food and sometimes we have too much of that. That said, if I get 100 volunteers tomorrow, we will need food."

Eleven food banks in Ottawa are running short, having lost much of their perishable food over the weekend due to the power outage.

Now that electricity has been restored in most areas of the city, those food banks will be replenishing supplies. They're asking for cash donations.

On Monday morning, when most schools were closed in Ottawa, teacher Chantale Hart and her son Jacob Robinson arrived at West Carleton Secondary School with some basic supplies.

"We brought coffees, warm socks, some water, just to try to help out a little bit. I think it was a good lesson for the kids too. Being pulled out of school, it's not a day off," said Hart.

Chantale Hart and her son Jacob Robinson drop off basic supplies to West Carleton Secondary School. (Krystalle Ramlakhan, CBC)

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