Quilts for Fort McMurray

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Zion resident Shirley Challice with daughter Katie and grandson Rocky sit amidst a mountain of handmade quilts for Fort McMurray for evacuees like Katie and her family

Photo: KG – Zion resident Shirley Challice with daughter Katie and grandson Rocky sit amidst a mountain of handmade quilts for Fort McMurray for evacuees like Katie and her family

The devastating wildfires in Fort McMurray have touched many, moving people to find ways to demonstrate support to the victims of the tragedy in a tangible way. For Zion Line resident Shirley Challice, the need was more keenly felt, as her daughter Katie Bedford had been living in that town with her husband Nate since 2009 when they moved there for work. Katie was visiting her mother in Millbrook with her 9 month old son Rocky in May, renovating a home in Peterborough she and her husband had purchased. The plan was to rent one level and use the other as a base for their visits home. During her visit, she received devastating news: her home in Fort McMurray had burnt to the ground. With only ten minutes to retrieve important items from their home, Kate’s husband Nate had picked up their dog and a few critical documents and fled. All of their belongings were lost.

That same day, their tenant backed out of their lease arrangement, and Katie did not know how to give her husband more bad news. It turned out, the news was providential. The family have lived in the home for the last two months and are not sure if or when they will return to Alberta. In the meantime, they are paying the mortgage on both the Peterborough and the Fort McMurray home, not sure how or when the insurance issues will be resolved or what employment prospects will be available for Nate, whose contract had expired shortly before the fires.

In the meantime, they are comforted by the support of friends, family and strangers to the plight of their Alberta community.

As President of the Kawartha Quiltmakers’ Guild, Shirley learned of a group in Edmonton calling themselves “Quilts for Fort McMurray”, which was coordinating the collection of quilts from all across Canada (and beyond). Having already collected and donated quilts for victims of another Canadian tragedy- the Lac Megantic train disaster in 2013, she knew what to do. Together with friend and fellow quilter Maureen O’Neill, Challice established a local collection point for quilts for this project, and as of last week had received over 130 colourful quilts from quilting guild members and individuals. The items will be shipped in the next few weeks free of charge by McWilliams Moving and Storage to Edmonton for distribution to victims of the wildfires.

In the meantime, they will continue to receive quilts in Peterborough or Millbrook and donations can be made by contacting Maureen O’Neill (alormo@cogeco.ca) or Shirley Challice (schallice47@gmail.com) to arrange delivery. These lovingly produced keepsakes will provide comfort to victims like Katie Bedford and her family who face a difficult wait ahead.

In the meantime, O’Neill says they are trying to locate Fort McMurray evacuees who are in the Peterborough area. If they have a Red Cross number, O’Neill says they will be given a quilt directly. KG

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