My Journey to Edmonton
Coming from a small city in Saskatchewan, where most people knew who you were, who your family’s last three generations were; it was a big change moving to Toronto where maybe you knew a handful of people, and maybe some of the family’s history as first generation Canadians.
My next big move was coming from Toronto, to Edmonton, Alberta. My husband moved here for work, as I attended school out east. I was unhappy leaving the bustling hum of the Greater Toronto Area, commonly known as the GTA.
My first month in Edmonton, I found it too quite, and longed for either more noise, or the comfort of the small city Saskatchewan feel I loved when I grew up.
I found both eventually as I continued to grow, and live in Edmonton. As the seasons changed, I explored the events, farmers’ markets, the River Valley, but still had not found the sense of community I craved for.
I found that feeling when the Fort McMurray fires happened.
Fire Hits Close to Home
When I heard, and than saw on social media the devastation these 90,000 some people were going through, I needed to help them anyway I could.
When the Slave Lake fire happened, I was on the other side of the country, and felt no emotional connection to them. When Calgary flooded, I felt sympathy and donated some time and money to the Red Cross. But, when Fort McMurray blazed, it hit closer to my heart as I had been there. My husband had worked there. I knew people that were being driven from their homes and losing work due to the fires.
I joined a group on Facebook that a friend invited me to. I posted what I could help with, and my contact information for anyone who needed the help I was able to offer.
One night, I received a call about the spare room my husband and I offered up. During the conversation with the woman on the other end, I told her that I could come to the airport to get her. There was a flight coming in at midnight from Fort McMurray, and the wave of love, and caring hearts that welcomed these wandering souls at the airport was overwhelming to watch, but incredible to feel. There were people with signs offering: food, rides to the set up shelters in the city, as well as people opening up their homes to offer some normalcy in all the chaos the Fort McMurray families were feeling.
My husband and I had two families needing to stay with us for a short time. One was a mother of three, and another was a mom and son, whom my husband had worked with in Fort McMurray. We felt like we gave so little, but to these families, they were so grateful, that it seemed like we gave them the world. It was very humbling for me, and seeing the amazing Edmontonians rally to support Fort McMurray was joyous to witness.
I know it was not just Edmontonians, but all of Canada.
Putting the Brand Promise & Talents to Work
I am a photographer for Cashco Financial, and I am part of an amazing company that has a brand promise, Cashco Cares. It is one thing for a company to say they care about the communities they are a part of. It is entirely different when they show they care.
I became part of a photographers’ group that were offering up their skills for free to the Fort McMurray families. These photographers came from all over Canada, from the east coast of Nova Scotia, all the way to the west coast of British Columbia.
When majority of the evacuation happened, it was right around Mother’s Day. There were groups of us all over the Edmonton area offering free family photos to the evacuees. We hoped we could help capture new family memories, to replace ones that were lost.
Cashco Financial’s Cashco Cares brand promise enabled me to do more than just photos. The people that create the company rallied together and entrusted me with multiple gift cards for: food, gas, movies, and clothing, to hand to the families that arrived at our events.
It was incredible to be part of such an amazing company, but to see the gratitude on the families faces when they were told the photos were free of charge, but as well as received a hand written card with a gift card… it was a truly humbling experience.
Through the photographers’ group, I was able to meet a young couple that had lost their wedding day to fire evacuations. But again, Albertans rose to the challenge and whipped up a beautiful wedding ceremony and reception for this young couple.
My husband and I could not make it to the ceremony (through it looked beautiful through the pictures I have seen, and experiences the guests shared with me), but was able to capture the memories of the reception. The love for this couple was great. One could not be touched by the amount of love, and compassion that overflowed from the Albertans that came together to make the wedding happen in such a short time.
Cashco Financial’s volunteer project allowed me: to edit the photos I took during work hours. They allowed me to leave at a moments notice to prepare my home for the families that were arriving to stay with my husband and I. As well as give some families gift cards for not only the essentials, but as well as for the movies to give them a little sense of normalcy.
In the tragedy of the Fort McMurray fires I have found that community feel, not only in Alberta, but in the company I work for.
The people that were taking time to go volunteer at donation places, opening up their homes, donating what they could to the Red Cross, was wonderful to see.
It brought everyone together and that is why no matter what the economy, Mother Nature, or tragedies that are thrown our way, we will remain Alberta strong. Not just as people, but as a company as well. We are here to help.
Please take a time to check out our Cashco Care page HERE! Ideas and thoughts are more than welcome.