by Sharon Jackson
MANITOULIN—Who better to understand what a family who has lost their home to a fire is going through than someone who has walked in their shoes?
Aaron Wright of Gore Bay lost all of his belongings in a December 2012 blaze and is fortunate that his children were not home at the time and he was not seriously injured. The fire took place around 11 pm and it was not until the following afternoon that Mr. Wright realized he didn’t even have a toothbrush and “had no clue what to do.”
Mr. Wright and partner Apryl Mayer launched the Manitoulin Fire Fund recently, something he has been thinking about since he was displaced two years ago.
The idea is to give items such as clothing and toiletries to families to get them through the first 72 hours after a fire. Their goal is to have personalized items “delivered within three to six hours following the fire” by partnering with other fire departments on the Island.
For example, if a family in Little Current loses their home in a fire, they want to have information regarding the sizes of each person in order to make up a care package. They are currently filling laundry baskets with clothing, blankets, toiletries, stuffed animals and other items. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The same evening this interview was conducted, a family in Manitowaning lost their home to a fire. The couple delivered a personalized Manitoulin Fire Fund care package to the family.)
Mr. Wright served on the Gore Bay Fire Department for a while and has, along with Ms. Mayer, joined the Billings Fire Department who generously donated funds to their venture collected from boot drive/car washes held last summer.
Billings Fire Department has a program in place where they will put up a family at a hotel for up to two nights. Mr. Wright hopes that if the program goes Island-wide each community will have a hotel to offer accommodations as well.
Mr. Wright was fortunate he had family to stay with, a cell phone in his pocket and his wallet in his vehicle. Many people will have to contact credit card companies, pharmacies, insurance office and government agencies to apply for replacement of identification such as driver’s licences and passports. They plan to include a pad of paper and pen in the baskets along with a checklist of people and businesses to call.
Other than the donation from the Billings Fire Department, the duo has been using their own money to purchase toothpaste, shampoo, socks, pajamas, t-shirts, slippers and underwear of all sizes for children, women and men.
A bank account has been set up under the name Manitoulin Fire Fund at BMO in Gore Bay (account 3990-466, transit No. 23422).
Ms. Mayer and Mr. Wright will be on hand at Kagawong’s Winter Fest at the Park Centre from 11:30 am to 1 pm on Saturday, February 21 to provide information about Manitoulin Fire Fund. They would be happy to accept (new) items including toiletries, clothing, children’s toys, pet food or financial donations.
To learn more about Manitoulin Fire Fund, join them for a kick-off party at their home on February 28. Donations of new items and interested volunteers are welcome.