Kamloops Pit Stop helps hundreds of Fort McMurray evacuees

By Tanya Cronin
May 26, 2016 - 4:41pm Updated: May 26, 2016 - 5:27pm

KAMLOOPS — A one-stop shop for Fort McMurray evacuees to pick up some essential supplies, is overwhelmed with the positive response the program has received. 

To date, Kamloops Pit Stop has helped nearly 200 wildfire evacuees passing through, or arriving in our city. 

Everything from food, toiletries, blankets, basic clothing, baby supplies, and pet food, has all been donated by local residents and businesses. 

For those who lost everything in the Fort McMurray wildfire, each little bit helps.

"My husband's a firefighter so the experience has been very stressful, the day we got evacuated I didn't get a chance to go home," says Stephanie McMurray, Fort McMurray Evacuee.
For the past 3 weeks, Stephanie McMurray and her one-and-a-half year old son Jayce, have been seeking refuge with family in Kamloops. Escaping the flames raging through their hometown with barely any belongings, she's turned to Kamloops Pit Stop, a program providing some hope.

"It almost makes me cry when I walk into one of these because of the generosity of all the people who have donated in thoughts of us, knowing we're going to need this stuff, and I've found everything I've needed, espeically for my son."

Starting out small, in less than a month Kamloops Pit Stop has quickly grown into 3 storage units, all bursting with essential supplies for wildfire evacuees. Organizer Elly Grabner never thought the response would be so huge. 

"We've had at this point almost 200 people from Fort McMurray come through which is crazy, and our volunteers have been amazing and the community has really stepped up," says Elly Grabner, Kamloops Pit Stop Organizer.

Donations from local residents and businesses have flooded in, everything from clothes, shoes, food, and toys fill racks and shelves.

"Our focus is that emergency relief , while people are travelling through BC most of the stuff they're going to need are little things they're going to need daily."

For Dave Korolik, his wife and daughter, volunteering at Pit Stop is a way of coping. The Fort McMurray residents are staying in Kamloops, and felt they needed to give back.   

"We were leaving here the other day and looked at my daughter and said do you want to come back and see if we can help out, just something therapeutic to help them get through things, so we came back today," says Dave Korolik, Fort McMurray Evacuee.

Stephanie McMurray is fortunate in the sense that her home is still standing. But she isn't sure when she'll be able to return and reunite with her husband. In the meantime, she says she's grateful for programs like Pit Stop, making it a little easier to get through a difficult time.

"When I found out there was a place here in Kamloops I was surprised and amazed that everyone could come together for us, and it's just a nice thought," says McMurray.

Kamloops Pit Stop is located at the 4 Corners Iron Mask Storage Facility on Bowers Place. Donations are still welcomed, particularly toiletries, things like shampoo, conditioner and deodorant, are all needed. For more information including hours of operation, visit the Facebook page Kamloops Pit Stop for Fort McMurray.

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