(Above) Salvation Army cooks serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to 370 evacuees, daily.

The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) team was deployed to Fort Vermilion, Alta. on May 3, after a flood left 750 residents displaced in the middle of a global pandemic.

This disaster was a unique situation because of extra safety measures and precautions caused by COVID-19. Since there is no Salvation Army in Fort Vermilion, the EDS team from Grand Prairie, Alta. was deployed with their Community Response Unit (CRU). They served meals to returning residents, volunteers, first responders, and other organizations helping with clean-up and rebuilding.

“It’s not just a canteen or food truck that comes in to feed and is transaction based, this is relationship based and people are so grateful,” Grande Prairie Salvation Army Community Ministries Officer, Captain Peter Kim said. “We’ve even had evacuees bring Tim Hortons, which is 40 minutes away, to support us as volunteers.”

A typical day on the canteen consists of two cooks, two volunteers handling meal distribution, and one volunteer tasked with clean-up. They have been providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week for about 370 people a day. Many of those may be due to the boil water advisory in place for residents, leaving some unable to use their kitchen.

“Many were in need of food,” says Kim. “We’re able to take care of that so they can focus on taking care of their home and rebuild.”

Many have lost their homes and others have seen about four to seven feet of water causing major damage. The emotional state of residents returning was low but as the week went on, The Salvation Army volunteer team began to see smiles on their faces.

“We continue to be there to support them and they begin to open up and share a lot more of their experiences and lives with us,” says Kim. “Its not just about food, its about loving them and building relationships.”

Volunteers have come from surrounding areas such as Grand Prairie, High Level, Alta. and La Crete, Alta. to help serve residents returning home. They understand what Fort Vermilion residents are going through as many had been affected and displaced during previous disaster incidents. 

The Salvation Army continues to provide essential services across Canada throughout the COVID-19 crisis. To donate, visit SalvationArmy.ca or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

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