By Guy Lepage, Canadian Red Cross volunteer
On January 25, 2017, an ice storm hit New Brunswick, at its height leaving 133,000 people without electricity. When I arrived Feb. 2 in the hardest hit area, the Acadian Peninsula, some 3,500 still were without power.
The Canadian Red Cross had set up shelters
in Tracadie and Shippagan, as well as Bas-Caraquet where I managed a shelter at an elementary school, École L'Escale-des-Jeunes.
There, we could offer residents a warm place to stay during the day, a safe place to sleep overnight and just as importantly to many, three hot meals a day, prepared by 15 women from the local community under the leadership of France Doiron, who had been cooking for large groups for years.
“It has been a real pleasure cooking for my neighbours and people who have travelled a long distance to help us,” said Doiron, whose team served more than 750 meals a day.
Six days later when area schools finally reopened for classes, we packed up the shelter and consolidated our operations 25 kilometres away at the Inkerman, NB, community centre.
The school’s 85 students were happy to see classes resume and Principal Celine Robichaud expressed gratitude at the thoroughness of our cleanup, noting, “Now that you have packed up, you can’t tell the Red Cross was here and we appreciate that.”
At Inkerman, the Red Cross focus in conjunction with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, switched from emergency sheltering to assessing urgent needs of those hit hardest financially by the prolonged outages, such as the cost of replacing entire fridges or freezers of spoiled food.
We initiated a process similar to one first employed following the 2016 evacuation of Fort McMurray, AB, to assess needs and quickly get cash to clients either through direct deposits to their bank accounts, or prepaid cash cards.
Emergency assistance is currently available for those impacted by the New Brunswick Ice Storm, and who have no access to food/means to buy food. The toll free number to register and have an assessment done is 1-888-893-1300, 9am-7pm AT daily.
Canadians can also donate
to support this response.