Kelowna volunteers working into morning hours to support evacuees

ESS volunteers overwhelmed

Volunteers with Emergency Support Services in Kelowna have worked well beyond midnight over the past few days trying to support flooding evacuees from Merritt and the Similkameen.

"Oh we are very busy" says ESS manager Garth Saunders.

On Thursday morning, the line to get into the ESS reception centre at Willow Park Church on Highway 33 stretched all the way to the street, according to one evacuee from Princeton.

"I have been inside sitting too long and outside standing too long in the cold. The lineup was out the door and around the corner," an evacuee, who wished to remain anonymous, told Castanet.

Despite the long waits, he is incredibly grateful for the work of the volunteers.

"We have all discussed this as a group. ESS volunteer staff have been nothing short of phenomenal every single day," the evacuee said.

"We have come through a pretty traumatic situation. Many of us have just lost our homes. We are not in the mood for too much, so we try to make humour out of everything, so we don't think about the crap we just went through."

The Princeton resident says his home is "done."

"I lost everything. We will really see when I get home. Many of us here are in that boat."

ESS manager Garth Saunders says Thursday has been abnormally busy because it is renewal day.

"They have had their three days to start with and now they have extended it to seven more days. So this is why you see the big lineup."

Saunders anticipates ESS will be working late into the night tonight.

"We were hoping to close at 6 p.m. tonight, but that is not going to happen. We only have seven computers and we are doing some hand-written ones so that takes a little longer. It is the volume of people that we have because each person takes about half an hour to enter into the system."

Saunders says over the last two days, he believes Kelowna volunteers have assisted over 700 people.

"Last night we were here until 1 a.m. and the night before that we were here until 4 a.m. Tonight is going to be well past 6 p.m. because I have been told we might have another three buses full of people coming in from Kamloops today," Saunders added.

In a video produced by the City of Kelowna, Mayor Colin Basran addressed the many volunteers aiding in supporting evacuees from the Lower Mainland.

“Our evacuee reception centre opened Monday to assist people from Merritt, Princeton and Tulameen. The volunteer Regional Emergency Support Services team has helped more than 1,200 people so far. We know senior levels of government and industry are working tirelessly to get key transportation corridors re-opened to minimize the disruption to supply chains."

“I would like to express our gratitude to everyone who is working hard on the response, including our volunteer Emergency Support Service staff who have helped thousands of people this year displaced by fire and floods.”

Basran also urged the community to be considerate of others.

“As we heard from Premier Horgan yesterday, the current limited supply of some products is expected to be temporary as new routes to the Interior are developed, so I urge people to be patient and considerate of others. This is not a time to panic – it’s a time to be considerate to your neighbours and others in our community who don’t have the ability or resources to stockpile supplies.

“For the many of you who have been asking how to help the hundreds of evacuees temporarily calling Kelowna home, the best way at this time is to support local charities – particularly food banks, to help with the increase in demand for food and other products. `

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