October 22, 2016 1:27 am

Edmonton non-profit asks community to return the favour after helping others for decades

WATCH ABOVE: They were there to ensure Fort McMurray evacuees were taken care of as flames encroached on many of their homes and for decades, the organization helped local residents who have lost everything to fires. Now, the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society is in need of help itself. Sarah Kraus explains.


From the Black Friday tornado, to the Slave Lake fire, to the Fort McMurray fire and many devastating local house fires, the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society (EERSS) has always been there for people in need.

In 2016 alone, the society has given away donations to more than 85,000 vulnerable Albertans.

“With Edmonton fires alone, we’ve helped 126 local individuals,” the EERSS’ Nicole Geoffroy said. “For low-income, we’ve helped over 8,500. For refugees, we’ve helped over 650 newcomers. And of course Fort McMurray – where we helped 77,000 individuals. So it’s been a very busy year for us.”

At their thrift store, anyone on a budget can shop for less. But people in desperate situations can also gather the necessities free of charge.

For the last 30 years, the organization has been renting a large building downtown from Alberta Infrastructure for just $1 a year, including utilities.

“We have a policy that when we have surplus space, we make it available to organizations – in particular not-for profit organizations,” Alberta Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason explained.

But EERSS’ home is aging.

“The building is certainly coming to the end of its design life and there’s significantly increasing risks that various systems in the building will fail,” Mason said.

“It’s past the point where we want to continue to put money into it. So we’ve decided to put the building up for sale.”

There’s no fixed deadline on when that will happen, but the society’s lease is up on Oct. 31, 2016.

“It means that they have to find alternative space, and we’re helping them with that,” Mason explained. “It’s a small not-for-profit – they don’t have a lot of money – but they provide necessary services and when Albertans need them, they’re there. We think that’s worthwhile.”

EERSS has rather specific needs: a space with a storefront that’s at least 8,000 square feet and near transit routes.

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“The problem that we are facing now, is finding a location for our storefront so people can continue to access the needs and necessities,” Geoffroy explained.

The organization runs with only four staff  and they’re already stressed helping clients. They’re hopeful the community they’ve supported for decades can return the favour and help them in their hour of need. Not only with a building, but with a way to pay for it.

“Opportunities for funding or grants or corporate sponsors – so if anyone has any ideas or connections, that’s what we’re really hoping to get,” Geoffroy said.

If that doesn’t happen soon, the EERSS could be forced to close its doors.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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