STEWIACKE - A few weeks ago a devastating fire destroyed a building that was home to five families in Stewiacke. It did not, however, destroy the spirit of giving that was just waiting to be ignited.
A call went out immediately from Kathy Downey and others from the Stewiacke Baptist Church to gather some household items and a few gift cards to help these families out.
With the aid of social media and word-of-mouth, however, what might have been a small gesture of kindness quickly grew into a substantial outpouring of compassion, great activity and true giving.
As base for donations, the Baptist Church hall was set up with four tables. As more and more people came to drop off their donations, all the hall's tables had to be set up and then the volunteers started asking the donors if they had tables that could be used.
The growing mountain of gifts, including bedroom and living room furniture, TVs, microwaves, bedding, towels, clothes and toys for the little ones, was overwhelming. There was virtually every household item you could imagine.
The families were invited to come to the hall and help themselves to what they needed and they did, leaving with goods by the truckload.
Along with household items, many individuals, families and businesses were very generous with cash donations which were transferred to gift cards for groceries and general items.
One person in particular, who knew firsthand how devastating a fire can be for a family, gave an amazing donation of $300 in gift cards. Employees and managers of the Stewiacke Pharmasave, Foodland and Camelot Cooling and Heating donated groceries and certificates to help these families with the first steps towards re-establishing their homes.
Although organizers had initially decided to re-donate any leftover items to other organizations, upon looking at the amount collected they had a yard sale instead and were able to divide more than $300 among the families from the proceeds.
Jackie MacPhee, with help from Valerie Sutherland and many others, including local businesses, pulled together a full-blown ball tournament.
There were so many people interested in participating that three divisions were set up - competitive, non-competitive and totally just for fun.
Everyone had a blast and, with the motto 'Helping Our Community' written on the back of some of their t-shirts, $1,908 was raised and divided evenly among each individual - child or adult - who was living in the burned-out apartment building.
The outpouring of care for these families was completely overwhelming. The donations were amazing and the countless volunteer hours spent collecting, sorting and organizing, making deliveries and working at the yard sale was simply immeasurable.
It would be impossible to list every single person or business that made this effort so astounding, but here are a few: John Downey, Kathy Downey, Richard Graham, Christine McDonald, Hendrick and Luke Mostert, Alex Sharples, Kim Stevens, Bill Stone, Donalda Stone, Matthew Sutherland and Anita Tompkins.
A special 'thank you' to the Stewiacke Fire Department who were quick, kind and compassionate in a time of great fear and anxiety, and to the many neighbours - both friends and strangers - who rushed to the aid of the families in the middle of the night to offer comfort and support.
Kathy Downey and the crew at the Stewiacke Baptist Church, the original organizers of this aid effort, would like to thank the people of Stewiacke and surrounding communities for stepping up in such a grand way.
The families, too, are truly grateful. They used words like "unbelievable," "so kind," "amazing" and "incredible" to describe the people and the help they received. They would like to take this opportunity to thank their community - their friends, neighbours, and the many strangers - who dug deep and helped make a tragic situation a little more bearable.
On behalf of Amanda Creelman and Matthew Sutherland, Jodie Googoo, Tori Irving, Debbie McDonald, Jason Stevens and their families, a heartfelt thank you. Your generosity and kindness will never be forgotten.
Heather Hamilton has lived in East Stewiacke for almost 25 years and is an avid supporter of her community. If you have community news that the Stewiacke Sleuth should know about, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.