Nearly 50 families lost their homes and everything in them when a fire tore through a building at the Mountainview Co-op last month and now a Port Moody woman is spearheading a Christmas hamper and donation drive to help them pick up the pieces.
Tina D'Amelio is a counsellor at Sir Frederick Banting middle school, where seven students were Mountainview residents who lost their homes, and wanted to find a way to help. She organized a Christmas hamper program so that families could enjoy opening gifts this year but says the real need is for those who are starting to move into new accommodations and will need to restock all of their household goods.
"I'm always doing community service…so with Christmas coming I knew I could help out," D'Amelio said.
Living in the 48 units that were destroyed were 140 people including adults, seniors and children ranging in age from eight months to 18 years old. Some have been able to stay with family or friends while others are still in hotels; the search for more permanent arrangements until the Mountainview building is repaired or rebuilt, likely two years from now, has been challenging, D'Amelio said.
"On top of the fire they're now paying more rent," she added. About half of those displaced have found new apartments, and most are set to move in on Dec. 1, but are paying an average of $300 more per month than they were at Mountainview. "And they haven't been able to get close to their kids' schools so they have to buy a bus pass too. They saw some initial money when they had to live in hotels…but it takes a long time to see any insurance money."
Together with the city of Port Moody D'Amelio has organized a donation drive on Dec. 12 at the Glenayre community centre.
People are encouraged to donate household goods including bedding, pillows, towels, kitchen items, condiments, toiletries and cleaners. Gift cards in $20 increments from Walmart or the Dollar Tree are also appreciated.
Jamie Crozier, president of the Mountainview Housing Co-op, said the donation drive and Christmas hampers will be a big help for the displaced families.
"We've had such tragedy…we need some victory stories," he said. A large room at the co-op is full of donations that poured in just after the fire and affected residents have been coming by to pick up items as needed, but the demand is expected to grow as more families find permanent housing.
• The Block 900 fundraiser is at the Glenayre community centre in Port Moody on Saturday, Dec. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To sign up to supply a Christmas hamper to one of the affected families, contact Tina D'Amelio at email@example.com or 604-939-9247.