by EVAN MATTHEWS
With sections of Fort McMurray left in ruins after a massive forest fire, many evacuees are experiencing the feeling of devastation – a feeling 28-year-old Jackilyn Lussier is all too familiar with.
Chaos broke out in Fort McMurray on May 4th, says Lussier — the same date her husband passed away a year ago. To make matters worse, Lussier’s mother had passed 25 days before her husband.
“I had a really rough year, and the community totally came together,” said Lussier.
“They made us breakfast, lunch and dinner, they started a GoFundMe account, they started a baseball tournament in honour of my husband and raised money for me and my two little girls,” she said.
Lussier said rather than spend this May 4th sitting, grieving and being sad, she contacted Marian Plummer in order to help the Fort McMurray evacuees.
“I was having a rough day, but these people were too,” said Lussier. “I wanted to take my strength I’ve gotten over the year and help somebody else out.”
Plummer says everyone knows where she lives in Valemount, so it made things easier to organize donations at her house. Lussier asked Plummer to make a Facebook post, and shortly after the donations came rushing in.
“With only a couple days to pull it off, things became a little crazy,” said Plummer. “A steady stream of vehicles was stopping by to drop donations off… Jacilyn’s horse trailer and pick up started looking pretty full.”
Lussier estimates about 200 people from Valemount alone made contributions, but there was overwhelming support from Dunster and McBride too. Melanie Ford and Serena Tinsley played roles in their respective communities, Lussier said.
With donations overflowing from Lussier’s horse trailer windows, and with her two children and Tinsley in the truck, Lussier brought $1,000 in cash donations and stopped in Hinton to pick up a few more supplies.
They arrived in Edmonton around 3 PM on May 7th, a time of day when motel parking lots are usually empty because no one has checked in, says Lussier. But she could barely fit her truck and trailer through the lot. She said there were people everywhere.
“We took the stuff to a warehouse where they were sorting and distributing,” said Lussier. “The people were in shock, they couldn’t believe what was happening — they were in disbelief. Yet they were so thankful for what we were bringing.”
But not everyone was accepting help because they were in too much shock and disbelief, says Lussier.
“They just want to go home,” she said. “They’re home sick and traumatized.”
Now inundated with donations, Lussier said it’s mostly toiletries, can openers and gift cards that are needed to help.
“Sometimes all it takes is a great idea, and someone to follow through on it,” said Plummer. “Jackilyn had that idea.”
Lussier is thanking the community for the support as she spearheaded the operation in honour of her husband and mother.