Gore Bay couple establishes Manitoulin Fire Fund program

GORE BAY—A Gore Bay couple is looking for Island-wide support on a program they have established to make the lives of families who have had their lives shattered by a fire a little more bearable.

“We have started the Manitoulin Fire Fund for anyone on Manitoulin who has been involved in a fire and is displaced,” said Aaron Wright, who along with his partner Apryl Mayer have started the program. “I can relate to what it’s like when your house has been destroyed in a fire. What you experience is just like a death in the family.”

“The idea for this program all started when my house fire (in Gore Bay) took place in December 2012. When I came back later to my old house location I came back to nothing; the house and contents had all been destroyed,” said Mr. Wright.

However, “the support I had from the community and people from all over was just incredible, people helped out so much in getting me back on my feet. April and I talked about all of this and we agreed it would be nice to have a program in place to provide a basket of necessities families and individuals need after a fire that would help them over the first 72 hours after a fire.”

“Our idea flourished when we brought this idea to the Billings Fire Department,” said Ms. Mayer (the couple are members of the Billings Volunteer Fire Department).

Mr. Wright explained that the Billings Fire Department had some money left over from a boot drive and other fundraisers and was wondering what they could do with the rest of the money. They donated some of the money toward the Manitoulin Fire Fund.

“When we mentioned this to the Billings’ Fire Department they were on board right away,” said Ms. Mayer.

“We have already started to get new things,” said Mr. Wright, noting the couple have already put $500 into the fund to purchase new items for the program.

“The Billings Volunteer Fire Department was the first to donate toward the project,” said Ms. Mayer.

“We are willing to do more with the Island fire departments-communities who want to take part. At a fire in M’Chigeeng two weeks ago (which the Billings fire department responded to) we were able to present a laundry basket of items to the family,” said Ms. Mayer.

The new items that are put in each basket include such things as socks, underwear, toothbrushes, pajama bottoms, t-shirts, comfort blankets, towels, stuffed animals for children along with toys, soaps, toothpaste, face clothes, cat or dog food and many other necessities.

Along with financial support, “we are also reaching out to the community members for new items, such as new t-shirts. ” said Ms. Mayer.

“We are working on possibly getting businesses involved to provide gift certificates for food, clothing and other necessity items,” said Ms. Mayer.

“A lot of businesses already like to help out those people that have been involved in a fire. Maybe they could provide 10 percent off gift cards, hoping to promote their business as well,” said Mr. Wright.

Mr. Wright said, “it is devastating to families and individuals who have been burned out of their home and most take place at night, when people are least equipped to handle a fire occurring.”

“We would also eventually like to put together an information sheet as well, with a list of things those involved need to do, like notify their insurance company,” said Mr. Wright.

As well, the couple is hoping to get support from local supporters and accommodation businesses to put up a family for a couple of nights after they’ve been involved in a fire. The Billings Fire Department has indicated it will provide this for fire victims and the couple is hoping that other fire departments might get involved as well.

“We would also like to do a smoke detector campaign,” said Mr. Wright. “They do save lives, as do CO detectors.”

The couple have set up a bank account at the Bank of Montreal in Gore Bay that people can make donations to to help fire victims. Roger Lloyd will be assisting Aaron and April on this project. The Bank transit number is 23422 and the account number is 3990-466.

The couple will be on hand in Kagawong during its Winterfest celebrations with the Billings Fire Department. People will be able to donate items or make monetary donations. An official launch of the Manitoulin Fire Fund will take place February 28.

“We are hoping to expand the program to other communities and municipalities on the Island, and maybe even beyond the island in the future, if there is support for it,” said Mr. Wright.