BMO donates $2M to Fort McMurray wildfire recovery efforts

Encouraging messages can be seen on billboards across Fort Mcmurray, June 1, 2016.
Encouraging messages can be seen on billboards across Fort Mcmurray, June 1, 2016. Global News

Several charitable organizations involved in the Fort McMurray wildfire rebuilding efforts received a big cash injection, thanks to a donation from BMO Bank of Montreal.

The $2 million donation will be distributed among the following organizations:

BMO said it’s the largest donation of its kind in the bank’s history.

“Many residents and businesses across Alberta continue to be affected by the disaster in Fort McMurray,” Susan Brown, senior vice-president, Alberta and Northwest Territories, BMO Bank of Montreal, said. “We hope this donation will help to alleviate some of these challenges as residents and local authorities continue the rebuilding process.”

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READ MORE: By the numbers: Fort McMurray wildfire, 6 months later

On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, nearly 90,000 people fled the Fort McMurray area as a wildfire raged though the northern Alberta community. Some residents were left with almost nothing and with nowhere to go.

WATCH BELOW: The Fort McMurray wildfire forced more than 80,000 people from their homes as it has grown to 101,000 hectares in size. Here’s a look back at how the first few days unfolded.

Fort McMurray wildfire: Video timeline of events
Fort McMurray wildfire: Video timeline of events

In the long hours, days and weeks that followed, a small army of first responders, firefighters, municipal planners and other Albertans worked to battle the wildfire, save the city and provide for those who fled. Many communities opened their doors to the evacuees, giving food, water, beds and a roof over their heads.

As the rebuild continues six months later, many groups continue to help residents affected by the fire.

The BMO donation will help organizations that are stretched thin, like the Wood Buffalo Food Bank. It has struggled to meet “off the charts” demand. Earlier this year it said 94 per cent of people who visited the food bank in June 2016 had never accessed a food bank before.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray food bank struggles to meet ‘off the charts’ demand

The local Habitat for Humanity and United Way will split half of the donation.

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“This is not just the oil sands in the far north of Alberta; this is home, home to families, including children, grandparents and young adults wanting to build their future,” United Way Fort McMurray executive director Diane Shannon said.

The United Way works to create long-term improvements to the quality of life in the Wood Buffalo region. During a six-month wildfire anniversary update, the organization said $3.75 million was pledged through the United For Fort McMurray campaign and the Fire Aid for Fort McMurray concert, and about $1 million had been put to use.

Habitat for Humanity builds affordable housing for those who are unable to buy a home through traditional means.

READ MORE: How donations for Fort McMurray compare to other Canadian disasters

“Our Wildfire Recovery Program is geared towards helping our community’s most vulnerable families who for one reason or another were under-insured or uninsured,” Habitat for Humanity Wood Buffalo executive director Crystal Lewis-Wilton said.

“This support will help us get families back into their homes sooner.”

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