In May 2016, Heather Ryan and her family were among the 80,000 residents who fled Fort McMurray, Alta., following a devastating fire known as “The Beast.” The blaze destroyed 2,400 structures, nearly 10 percent of the city. Heather was among 1,500 people whose journey led her to a Salvation Army thrift store, where she found not only assistance but a new kind of home.

Returning Compassion
Leaving everything behind, Heather, her husband and daughters evacuated Fort McMurray in the wake of the devastation. In the days following the fire, the family, now out of a home, work and school, made their way to Leduc, Alta. There, they received assistance from the Salvation Army thrift store’s voucher program, which provided clothing, household items and furniture free of charge to help them rebuild their lives. Coming to love Leduc, they soon settled in.

“I’ve always loved thrift stores—and especially Salvation Army thrift stores—so once we fully settled, I returned to the store in January to ask if they were hiring, and here I am!” Heather explains. “I absolutely love the work that is being done and the positivity of the team has made a huge impact on my life.”

Heather has lost much, but working as a store associate at the Leduc location has gifted her with a new family in her thrift store team.

Recently, she expressed her thanks through a surprise plaque, card and cake celebration for her Leduc team for the significant role that they played in helping to get her on her feet again.

“On the one-year anniversary of the Fort McMurray wildfire, my family is incredibly grateful to the Salvation Army thrift store and for all that has been done to help me, my husband and daughters start over,” says Heather. “It takes a special kind of soul to help others selflessly, and to now be a part of the thrift store warms my heart. God does things for a reason. I couldn’t have met a more wonderful group  of people.”

Says store manager Adam Burke, “She opened up to us about her experiences and stories from the evacuation, showing us how thankful she and her family are to the thrift store for being there for them in their time of need. She wanted us to see how proud she is to have been hired by us, to return the compassion and good works that were shown to her 12 months ago.”

Helping Hand
The Salvation Army thrift store in Leduc, Alta., provided more than $150,000 worth of clothing and household goods through its voucher program for evacuees to shop free of cost to rebuild their lives. Through a national fundraising campaign under the GoodWorks@Work initiative, the thrift store raised $48,684 to assist The Salvation Army’s programs and services for Fort McMurray evacuees.

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