Our Community: Region rallies with relief for Fort Mac

A local aid organization is throwing its doors open to donations and volunteers on Monday as it puts together an aid package for residents of Fort McMurray, Alta.

Victoria-based Disaster Relief Canada is hastily preparing a shipment of supplies, set to depart Tuesday. The non-profit agency, created by the Rotary Club 12 years ago, is typically involved in humanitarian missions overseas.

But the wildfire has set the group’s sights closer to home. It is putting together a simple hygiene kit that consists of a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, washcloth and a towel.

“When a person has to leave their home suddenly, taking a toothbrush is the last thing on their minds,” said executive director Anne McIntyre.

While other aid agencies tend to food, shelter and other basic needs, this charity, operating out of a small, nondescript office in Esquimalt, helps keep them clean.

Its Soap for Hope program collects partially used toiletries from hotels in Victoria and Vancouver Island. The soap, shampoo and other toiletries are then repackaged into hygiene kits, which are given to residents of 13 local shelters.

“We process approximately 10,000 hygiene products a week,” said McIntyre. “The need is there, but our ability to help others is limited by the help we receive.”

On Monday, the facility will be open to accept donations and new volunteers to help package the supplies. The Jackson’s Ice Cream truck will be on hand with free ice cream for the volunteers. There is a plan to get coffee donated as well.

The shipment will be distributed by the group’s Alberta branch, which is based in Calgary.

The event runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at its office/warehouse, 426 William St., Esquimalt. To donate or volunteer, call 250-595-5974. For more information, go to disasteraid.ca.

Cheers for donating to a good cause

Add a case of compassion to your shopping cart the next time you shop at any B.C. Liquor Store in the province, as the stores begin to accept donations to aid disaster relief for people affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire.

The Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch, recently announced that customers at all of its stores can now donate toward disaster relief in Alberta.

Donations at the 198 retail stores in the province will be forwarded to the Alberta Red Cross. Money will help reunite family members and provide evacuees with shelter, food and water. It will also come into play in the future, assisting with longer-term needs as the community rebuilds.

Before this catastrophe, the stores had been collecting donations for the Red Cross for Ecuador earthquake recovery efforts. Funds raised between April 27 through May 3 still be directed to assist thousands of Ecuadorians struggling to cope in the aftermath of the strongest earthquake to hit the country in decades.

The new initiative comes on the heels of an announcement that the stores had successfully raised more than $360,000 for their annual Support Dry Grad campaign last month.

The Support Dry Grad campaign is an integral part of efforts by the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch to prevent underage drinking. The annual campaign has raised more than $6.22 million since 2001.

B.C. Liquor Stores’ customers and employees have supported Red Cross disaster relief efforts for humanitarian crises at home and abroad since 2003. Since then, more than $2 million has been raised for humanitarian crises in Nepal, Haiti, Pakistan, Japan and Africa, as well as disaster relief efforts in New Orleans and now, Alberta.

As well, any donation made to the Red Cross for Fort McMurray will be matched by Ottawa, according to an announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday.

For more information, go to bcliquorstores.com or redcross.ca.

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Red Cross app reminds you to Be Ready

The raging wildfires in Alberta are a good reminder to people to prepare for emergencies, after observing Emergency Preparedness Week, May 1 to 7.

The Canadian Red Cross took the opportunity to launch their new Be Ready app that gives users instant access to the information they need to help prepare for different emergency situations and to know what action to take when a disaster strikes.

The reminder is important since fewer than half of Canadians say they have any type of emergency supply kit in their homes. Even fewer have an alternate source of water available should anything happen to their usual supply.

“The Canadian Red Cross recommends keeping enough supplies on hand to be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours in the event of a disaster or up to two weeks in a health emergency,” said Debra Molesworth of the Canadian Red Cross. “We can’t control when or where a disaster will happen, but being prepared can help mitigate the impact disasters have on people, families and communities.”

The new free app includes live weather feeds as well as interactive learning tools that educate Canadians on how to prepare their homes and families before, during and after disasters and emergencies.

People can also help spread the preparedness message by taking part in the #InMyKit social media campaign that uses tweets, posts, blogs and videos to share examples of what people are including in their own emergency preparedness kits.

The Be Ready app is available on iOS and Android devices.

For more information, go to redcross.ca/ready.

Find a new friend at Humane Society event

Up to 100 dogs are up for adoption at a Puppy Pop-up Adoption Event, hosted by the Victoria Humane Society on Saturday.

“At least two litters, maybe more, will be at the most adorable adoption event ever,” said Marie Zirk, a publicist for the society.

The puppies are from Fort Ware, a community in northern British Columbia. The puppies include a litter of shepherd-mix and a litter of chihuahua-mix, and potentially another litter as well. The mother dogs were taken into care as they were pregnant — and risked being shot for being in that condition.

The event is a meet and greet. Prospective adopters are invited to come by and meet their potential new best friend.

People can follow the puppies on the organization’s Facebook page and fill out an adoption application online. Once that is done, there is a house visit, and an adoption fee is required.

The Victoria Humane Society has more than 100 dogs in foster care right now — and some of the adult dogs will be at the event as well. There will be branded merchandise for sale, cupcakes, Starbucks coffee and face painting by donation. There is even a fun education table for kids.

The event runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 14 near the kiddie play area at Westshore Town Centre, 2945 Jacklin Rd.

For more information, go to victoriahumanesociety.com or Facebook.

Mental-health group celebrates 60 years

Island Community Mental Health celebrated its 60th anniversary with an open house at its facilities at 125 Skinner St. on Friday.

Formerly known as the Capital Mental Health Association, the organization has been a non-profit, community-based provider of mental health services on Vancouver Island since 1956.

Olympic gold medallist Simon Whitfield was the master of ceremonies with Jeremy Loveday, spoken word poet and Victoria city councillor, as the keynote speaker.

Guests were treated to cake, music, visual art and a tour of the facilities. They learned of the range of services provided, including housing, supported education and employment, cognitive behavioural therapy and other evidence-based programming, dementia respite services, leisure and wellness groups, life skills training and community outreach.

The organization is funded by Island Health, B.C. Housing and by donations from local businesses, charities and the community. For more information, go to islandcommunitymentalhealth.ca.

 Recognize a great woman in your life 

Nominate a woman you know for their contributions to their families, friends and communities at the Unlimited Woman Awards.

There are 12 categories, which include friendship, great mothers, community leaders, creative spirits, health and wellness gurus, style icons, women of wisdom and women of potential for nominees under 19, among others.

Nominees can be friends, mothers, sisters or wives — any woman that has a positive impact on the people around them.

This is the third year of the awards, hosted by local organization yoUnlimited.

The evening event will also include dance, vocal and spoken word performances from local female artists.

“I created the Unlimited Awards because I want to live in a world where women are recognized for the great contribution they make every day,” said founder Carolyne Taylor. “Many of us have felt as though we are not enough. I want every single woman to feel that they are enough.”

The awards ceremony takes place June 6 at the Victoria Conference Centre. To view a full list of categories and descriptions, as well as to nominate someone, go to younlimited.com/ unlimited-woman-awards.

Shake and shimmy on World Belly Dance Day

Belly dancers in Victoria and around the world are gearing up to make dance history once again, all for a great cause.

On Saturday, Shimmy Mobs will be appearing at random locations in 202 cities around the world to promote World Belly Dance Day and help raise awareness and funds for domestic abuse victims’ shelters.

Dancers will perform various styles of belly dance and audiences will be treated to a show full of fun and variety. The event also promotes World Belly Dance Day on Saturday, which will include events such as free classes, workshops, demonstrations and performances.

For more information, go to shimmymob.com.

Colour Your Palate, please your taste buds

Colour Your Palate is Victoria’s version of Iron Chef with a twist. It is also the signature fundraising event for the artsREACH program.

The event pits local chefs against each other to create a colour-inspired canapé, using a randomly drawn colour. Colours in previous draws have included: yellow, blue, red, purple, orange, and green.

At the event, professional judges do a blind taste and vote for winners in two categories: Best Tasting Creation and Most Colourful Creation.

Guests receive a complimentary glass of wine or beer and get to visit each chef’s station to sample each canapé. Guests get to vote for their favourite canapé as part of the “People’s Choice” award. There is also a silent auction and a door prize.

ArtsREACH is a not for profit organization created to provide high quality visual and performing arts training to young children, regardless of their financial means.

Tickets are $65. The event runs 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the University Club, University of Victoria, 3800 Finnerty Rd. For more information, go to artsreach.ca.

Scotiabank MS Walk next Sunday

Register now for the Scotiabank MS Walk, Sunday, May 15.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will be split evenly between research and local programs and services assisting people who are living with MS.

Money raised will fund programs such as the MS Art Therapy Group, Newly Diagnosed Support Group, educational seminars, equipment loan program and others.

Participants at the event will be rewarded with prizes such as gift cards, a fun event T-shirt, lunch and live entertainment on the event day.

The event is accessible to people using wheelchairs, scooters or strollers. Dogs are also welcome to join.

People can choose between three-, five- or nine-kilometre walks. Check-in starts at 8:30 and the walk starts at 10 a.m. along the Galloping Goose trail starting from Marigold Elementary School, 3751 Grange Rd.

For more information, go to mssociety.ca.

 Need clothes for grad? Project has you covered 

Thinking of going to grad but don’t have anything appropriate to wear — and shocked at the high cost to buy or rent?

No one needs to miss their grad for financial reasons, thanks to the Magic Wand Project, a non-profit organization who help make teens’ dreams come true by lending suits to boys and special grad dresses to girls. All they ask for is a small fee to cover dry-cleaning costs.

The organization was started in 2001 and has helped more than 500 grads attend their graduations in style, and not break the bank. It has a large selection of donated new and nearly new outfits and accessories to choose from.

For appointments call 250-658-0246 or email esurerus@telus.net. For more information, go to themagicwandproject.ca.

 Canstruction event returns to Mayfair mall 

See colossal structures made completely out of non-perishable food items at the third annual Canstruction Victoria event, now until May 16.

Hosted by The Dahlia Society as a fundraiser in support of the Mustard Seed, the event is a visual spectacle and friendly competition among nine teams who have made structures to this year’s theme: A Blast from the Past, a pop culture journey through time.

People can vote on their favourite structure with a donation of $2 or two non-perishable food items.

This is the third year of the annual event. In the last two years it has raised nearly 60,000 cans of food, which, in addition to monetary donations, equals approximately $163,000 worth of product and funds to the Mustard Seed.

The food and funds help the food bank through their busy summer season, when food needs are high and donations are generally low.

Visitors can see the displays for free during regular hours until May 16 at Mayfair Shopping Centre, 3147 Douglas St.

For more information, go to canstructionvictoria.ca.

parrais@timescolonist.com

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