REGINA – With wildfires in northern Saskatchewan leaving thousands of people unable to return to their homes, residents in communities where evacuees are staying are looking for ways to lend a helping hand.
Felisha Charles and her baby daughter were evacuated from Stanley Mission, roughly 40 kilometres north of La Ronge. She said the situation is trying.
“It’s just not comfortable,” she said. “I only brought three pairs of clothes for both of us because I didn’t think it would be that long.”
The Canadian Red Cross is housing around 7,000 evacuees at seven different shelters across the province, but the provincial coordinator Cindy Fuchs reiterated Tuesday that they can’t accommodate donations brought to those locations.
“It’s not that we don’t appreciate donations, but it has to be stuff that we need. Otherwise we end up at the end of the day, when our evacuees go home, with a bunch of products and stuff that are not useful.”
Instead, donations can be brought to partner organizations like the Salvation Army.
Val Wilks with the Salvaation Army’s Haven of Hope church said more vouchers are being given out to evacuees the longer they are kept from home.
“At the beginning we did one change of clothes per person. We’ve changed it to two, and they can get as many vouchers as they want,” she added.
In Regina, there’s still a need for summer clothes at the Salvation Army.
However, it’s a different story in Saskatoon where so many donations have been dropped off. Staff there are now closing down their donations tent.
There have also been countless fundraising and collection pages set up online.
Jayme Brandoline started the Facebook group Sask Evacuations – Helping One Another that, in only a week, has garnered close to 8,000 members.
“They’re using it as a way to connect with each other. Looking for rides and necessities,” she said. “People have no problem helping out!”
However, the province is advising against donating through unofficial channels.
“We do have problems with that, and that’s why we’ve been strong about what donations should be received or where they’ve been received to,” said Karri Kemps, manager of information with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services. “We certainly don’t want people taking advantage.”
The Red Cross is also advising residents they do currently have door-to-door canvassers in Regina, and other parts of Saskatchewan but the volunteers are not soliciting money specifically for the wildfire relief efforts.
Police advice residents to check IDs and not give out cash donations or credit card information to any charity coming to your doorstep.