With Christmas just around the corner, some regional residents displaced by flooding are facing the possibility of spending the holidays away from home.
“We do anticipate, based on the trajectories that are being predicted, that there will still be some families displaced over the holidays,” said Lt. Jennifer Henson with the Westside Salvation Army.
While many evacuees have returned to their homes in Princeton and Merritt, others remain ordered out and are sheltering in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Kamloops.
“It must be devastating,” Henson told Global News. “I think of the traditions that my family has and we pull out those decorations every year.
“And I wonder how many families have those decorations to pull out and how their lives are going to be impacted this year?”
The Salvation Army in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Kamloops have joined forces to brighten what will be a tough holiday season for many.
“We just want to do anything we can,” Henson said. “We don’t want anybody to go without Christmas this year.”
The Salvation Army will be providing toys and Christmas hampers to flood victims.
The Central Okanagan Food Bank is doing the same, as it prepares Christmas hampers for flood evacuees.
“What we are communicating to any of the flood victims that are in Kelowna is that they just call us and we will provide them with a full Christmas hamper … because they’re in such need and we feel we can do this. We know we can,” said Trevor Moss, the food bank’s chief executive officer.
Moss said the food bank will even deliver the hampers to evacuees if transportation is a challenge for them.
In addition to supporting evacuees who are forced to spend the holidays in the Central Okanagan and away from their homes, help is also being given to agencies in Princeton and Merritt so they can assist there.
“They might be not receiving as many donations as they normally would, because many of the donors who would normally give could be those who have been impacted by the floods,” Henson said.
The food bank is also supporting its counterparts in flood-ravaged communities.
“Just this past week, we actually sent 6,000 pounds of food to Princeton because they’re really hurting,” Moss said.
But with service providers helping evacuees in addition to local families in need, organizations and volunteers are gearing up for a very busy season.
“We do anticipate that it will be a much busier year than normal,” Henson said. “Our numbers are already trending towards what they were last year, perhaps a little bit more and then add on top of that the evacuee families that we will be supporting.”
And that means the need for donations is greater than before.
“I think the biggest need we have right now is to make sure that we have enough toys to support all of the local families, as well as those who are in our community here as evacuees,” said Henson.
“The Salvation Army both in Kelowna as well as in West Kelowna are receiving new, unwrapped toys, as well as stocking stuffers, gift cards for teenagers and board games for families to play with.”
Evacuees needing Christmas support from the Salvation Army are encouraged to register with either the Kelowna Salvation Army or the Westside Salvation Army.
Donations, such as toys, can be dropped off at the Salvation Army in Kelowna at 1480 Sutherland Avenue or in West Kelowna at 3531 Old Okanagan Highway.
The Central Okanagan Food Bank is also looking for donations. Visit the food bank’s website for more information or to donate.