When the economic downturn hit communities across the board two years ago, there were hopes that the crisis would not drag on for too long.
Yet, the reality turned out to be different and many people lost their jobs, some lost their ability to provide shelter to their families and the number of the needy increased drastically.
It was at the end of last year that several community organizations and concerned individuals in Stettler joined forces to do something to help those in need.
“The Stettler Emergency Relief Fund has been in operation for one year and has proved to be a real asset to the community,” said Lorraine Hankins, giving information on the activities undertaken over the last 12 months.
“We have been assisting clients in crisis with temporary accommodations, food and gas vouchers, damage deposits/utility arrears, or with medication expenses,” she said.
“We have also focused on homelessness and have been providing individuals with backpacks containing hoodies, blankets, personal hygiene items and a food voucher.”
Among other services, the relief fund is also providing information on community programs, referrals and assistance with the completion of forms.
The demand for their services has gone well beyond their imagination.
“When we started our organization, we felt that we might see a few people during the year that would need our help. With the downturn of the economy, we never anticipated that we would be overwhelmed with constant requests for help and provide some type of assistance to over 20 families that came to us as a last resort and we have had to turn away another 10 families due to a lack of funding,” Hankins said.
Those assisted under the program included:
• Men who had exhausted over 40 weeks of EI benefits and were either requiring gas to attend training or to travel for full-time employment with confirmed job offers;
• Families receiving food vouchers alongside medication that they could not afford;
• A man financially abused without anywhere to go was provided temporary accommodations:
• A single mother without a vehicle was assisted to move across town with all her belongings.
“These are just a few of the clients that we have seen, others have been victims of family violence, some have required gas vouchers for medical trips out of town, assisted a homeless individual that was going through Stettler on his bicycle with temporary accommodations and some food vouchers, and there are many others,” said Hankins.
Although there are signs that economic recovery is back on track, the fund’s job is by no means done.
“Our fund is still extremely insufficient given the growing needs in the community, so we are always looking for additional funding,” said Hankins.
She expressed gratitude on behalf of the Stettler Emergency Relief Fund to all those in the community who provided the overwhelming support and cooperation that has made a positive impact on the lives of many families.
Hankins said they would very much appreciate continued support, particularly in the form of monetary donations as this kind of assistance allows the fund to be able to address the most urgent needs without delay.
Hankins said they had not so far asked for any assistance from either the town or county, but added that they would welcome any support for projects they could undertake in the future.
If you are interested in becoming a board member, able to provide some financial assistance or assist in other ways with the Stettler Emergency Relief Fund, please contact either Lorraine Hankins at 403-742-1155 or Shelly Potter at 403-742-2337.