When an historic blizzard hit Newfoundland and Labrador in January, many communities in the eastern part of the province were brought to a standstill. Residents of St. John’s experienced a record-breaking 76 centimetres of snow in a single day, along with wind gusts as high as 130 kilometres per hour. Several communities were forced to declare states of emergency. As the storm let up and recovery efforts began, The Salvation Army stepped in to provide assistance to those in need.

“The motto of our division is ‘Whenever and wherever people need us, we’re here!’ ” says Major Rene Loveless, divisional secretary for public relations and development, Newfoundland and Labrador Division. “That commitment always holds true, and was especially so during the recent snowstorm.”

Throughout the state of emergency, Steven Hynes, divisional co-ordinator, emergency disaster services, Newfoundland and Labrador Division, was in regular contact with the St. John’s emergency manager and was actively engaged with the provincial emergency team. The Army was prepared to operate warming centres in St. John’s and provide food assistance as called upon; however, due to the state of emergency, the city did not move in that direction because conditions were unsafe.

The Army operated a warming centre at Conception Bay South Corps, N.L., during power outages in that area. In partnership with the town of Conception Bay South, Majors Chris and Claudette Pilgrim, corps officers, mobilized a team of volunteers and, in no time, soup and coffee were prepared and much kindness and compassion were shown to those in need.

In Mount Pearl, N.L., which received 93 centimetres of snow, the corps’ food bank opened its doors as soon as the state of emergency situation permitted. Majors Morgan and Lisa Hillier, corps officers, along with food bank staff and volunteers, remained available throughout the emergency to help as many families as possible, reaching out to vulnerable people and international students in the community to make sure everyone was taken care of.

As soon as the City of St. John’s gave the green light to food bank operations, Captain Tony Brushett, executive director, New Hope Community Centre, and community and family services staff were up and running. Over the course of two days, the Army’s food bank met the needs of 200 families.

When St. John’s announced it would be lifting the state of emergency, the Army held a community meal at the New Hope centre. “After a challenging week, there were many smiles and much appreciation from the 150 guests who enjoyed a hot meal and rich fellowship in a caring environment,” says Major Loveless.

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