The day after Christmas in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan this year was chilly: -35C chilly. The Plaunte family, Carmen, Jordy, one-year old Otis and the family cat, decided to enjoy a fire in their fireplace to warm up. They didn’t know that a squirrel had been hoarding pinecones in their chimney. Their living room quickly filled with smoke and soon the roof of their old home was in flames.
Plaunte family living room after the fire
They immediately fled their home, calling the Fire Department and getting in their truck to stay warm where they watched their home burn. Despite a speedy response from local fire crews their home was burned beyond repair. Fortunately, everyone, including the cat, got out safely.

Mobile Crisis arrived shortly thereafter and recommended they get in touch with the Red Cross which they did.

When we thought of Red Cross prior to this, we thought of mass emergencies and we didn’t think that Red Cross would be interested in helping just a family. We were really blown away by that,” said Carmen. The volunteer organized a hotel room and food for them for that night as well as an additional two days and met them at the hotel a short time later to see how they were doing and if they needed anything else.

“Thank you for considering it (being a volunteer or donating), you help regular people in very irregular situations. It really means so, so much. The fact that someone was dedicating their own time to help us was so meaningful and it really touched us.”

“We didn’t know if we would be out of our house for a few days or a few weeks,” said Carmen. “We didn’t know what to do so it was really nice to connect with Red Cross because they knew exactly what to do in that immediate time after the fire. It was such a relief to have someone else do that external Baby Otis sleeping in a Canadian Red Cross blanketthinking and planning for us. They also give us some provisions for emergency food, emergency clothing, and baby supplies because we had nothing. We hadn’t contacted insurance. We didn’t know how things would shake down. It was really nice to have our immediate needs taken care of.”

The family received vouchers from Walmart where they could find diapers, clothing and other essential items all in one place.

“It was really nice in those few days when we didn’t know what was happening or what would happen that we were able to at least not worry about food and shelter and our baby having diapers,” said Carmen.

From February 15 to March 9, Walmart Canada stores across Canada are raising funds to support the Canadian Red Cross' ability to respond to disasters. Visit a store near you to donate to help families in need whenever a disaster strikes.