Disaster relief group raises $75K for Dunrobin tornado victims

A coalition of five community groups has raised $75,565 to help tornado victims in Dunrobin, delivering emergency cash to families in need.

Local volunteers hand out one-time grants for families in immediate need

The community of Dunrobin in rural west Ottawa was devastated by one of the tornadoes that ripped through the region on Sept. 21. (Jackie & Rick Morris)

A coalition of five community groups has raised $75,565 to help tornado victims in Dunrobin, delivering emergency cash to families in need.

West Carleton Disaster Relief issued one-time payments of $500 each to 122 households affected by the storm. The money was delivered over a two-and-a-half week period, and is intended to help tornado victims meet basic needs without getting caught up in red tape.

The group says it stepped in to help when the Red Cross failed to come through.

"The Red Cross was not releasing funds quickly enough to those affected ... so we did," said Angela Bernhardt, one of the group's co-ordinators. 

The volunteer group's original goal was to help the community rebuild, but its members soon realized many families needed immediate financial support in the wake of the devastating Sept. 21 storm. Bernhardt said tornado victims faced long delays, piles of paperwork and mixed messages about who was eligible for Red Cross assistance, causing them even more stress.

Brian Lowden sits on an overturned boat in his backyard among debris left by a tornado in Dunrobin. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"We made sure that our families got at least something," Bernhardt said. "They knew that we were there and we were listening."

The remainder of the money raised so far has been put toward hiring security for the affected area, and to help defray unexpected costs such as reconnecting utilities.

West Carleton Disaster Relief is made up of volunteers representing five community associations from Dunrobin, Kinburn, Constance Bay and Buckham's Bay, Huntley and Corkery.

Also on Wednesday, the Ottawa Food Bank said 9,489 people used its services immediately after the tornadoes, a 33 per cent increase over the same period last year. A total of 19,679 hampers were delivered to the affected areas, more than twice the 8,302 hampers delivered over the same period last year.