Fort McMurray Flood Recovery Project

On April 26th, 2020, amidst a global pandemic, Fort McMurray was struck with a second state of emergency from a one in one hundred year flood that evacuated approximately 1200 buildings out of our downtown core and lower townsite. Individuals and families were evacuated out of apartment buildings by boat and forced to leave their homes, many of which attained significant damage of up to 6 feet of water.  Most affected by this situation did not have sufficient insurance coverage for their losses and/or had crippling deductibles hindering use of any insurance. 

Disaster Aid Canada approached both the Rotary Club of Fort McMurray and the Rotary Club of Fort McMurray Oilsands to see how they might support any recovery efforts for these people.  While both clubs were delighted for the support, the Rotary Club of Fort McMurray Oilsands had the capacity to administer the efforts.  


Fort McMurray Flood Recovery Project - Continued

Right away this initiative was brought to the clubs and we began to brainstorm the best way to assist our community at this time.  One of our members, being a Red Seal Electrician was immediately getting her hands dirty and helping individuals get new power boxes into their homes (once it was safe to do so.)  She suggested that we could use the Disaster Aid Canada funding to help individuals without insurance to pay for their new electrical boxes.  The club immediately took to the idea from hearing how her volunteer work was directly affecting individuals in our community.
As we moved through the project, we began to initially work off of referrals that Patricia (our electrician) was receiving through her volunteer efforts.  She worked VERY long days managing her full time job at Keyano College as an Electrical instructor and her now full-time volunteer job of installing electrical panels in the homes of people in need.  She installed 5 electrical panels over about a month.  We created a committee from our club with 5 members to tackle how we could spend the money, and not burn out our very valuable volunteer.  Over time we shifted from strictly installing the panels to reimbursing those who met our lack of insurance criteria.  We reimbursed 6 families and 1 Not for Profit for new electrical panels and we helped a family that was displaced by supplying them with a $500 Grocery gift card.
This funding from Disaster Aid Canada allowed us to assist 12 homes and 2 Not for Profits in the Fort McMurray community.  As we have funds left over from what we are calling phase one of the project, we will be supporting the 2nd NFP, the Centre of Hope, which is a centre for Fort McMurray’s homeless population.  This NFP was flooded in both locations they held as well as an offsite storage unit.  
The Rotary Club of Kitimat also supported us immensely through their donation of 10 electrical boxes!  We are still reaching out to those who could use these boxes.
This project allowed us to work with many great, and appreciative people in our community.  

The People and Projects we supported:

Norma & Sheila
Norma & Sheila are artists in the community. The home they live in was flooded to just under the ceiling rafters.  They needed to gut the entire basement and of course rip out their electrical panel as it was destroyed from water.  This couple has been a staple of the Fort McMurray community for decades and are considered treasures here.  Norm said, “Having the panel donated was a much needed boost to us at a very traumatic point in our lives. After finding out that our insurance would not cover the damage, knowing that we had the support of our friends and the community was a very real help and got us through a difficult time.”  We are so happy to have been able to help Norm and Sheila during this time from the generous donations of Canadians and Disaster Aid Canada!
Brianne and Randy
Brianne and Randy have an amazing story of getting married at their flood devastated property.  This property was their dream home and the flood filled it to the ceiling making it completely uninhabitable.  Upon seeing the damage to their home, they decided that the wedding they had planned for next year needed to happen sooner, so they got a marriage licence and married right at the property in knee deep water!  "It was an amazing, unplanned event. It just kind of came together and it allowed people to smile and just forget about everything else for a few moments” – Brianne.  
Our hearts are warmed knowing that we were able to help this couple in any way at this time.
Norfort Gymnastics Association
Norfort Gymnastics Association is a beloved gymnastics club that was also devastated by the flood.  They are a community staple as one of the only gymnastics clubs in the city.  Many Fort McMurray kids call Norfort their second home as they spend the majority of their time training in their sport.  Seeing the need for the 2 gyms this association holds, and that insurance would not cover the costs of remediation, we decided to step up and support their electrical panel needs.  
These are some of the stories we heard from those affected by this 1 in 100 year flood, coming just 4 short years (almost to the day) after we evacuated from “The Beast” wildfire.  Our community has seen more devastation in the past four years to last a lifetime.  We are so grateful to the generous Canadians who donated money to help our community; we would not have been able to do this work without their contributions.  Please follow our Facebook page for more pictures as we deliver cheques and connect with more community members affected by this flood.
Jennifer Warren - June 18, 2020