Communities unite on Neighbour Day to support Sunalta fire victims
Published Saturday, June 17, 2017 4:47PM MDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 17, 2017 6:35PM MDT
Hundreds of Neighbour Day celebrations took place in Calgary on Saturday but the event at the Sunalta Community Hall served as an example of community mere days after a devastating building fire.
On the evening of Monday June 5, a fire at a fourplex construction site in the 1600 block of 16 Avenue Southwest gutted the building and damaged neighbouring building., displacing dozens of people.
Tom Naested, president of Sunalta Community Association, says the community has come together to help.
“There’s 16 families we’ve been in contact with, to date, that are affected by the fire in Sunalta a week and a half ago,” said Naested. “A lot of these families didn’t have renters insurance, a lot of them were immigrants and at-risk groups. As a community, we want to make sure that we’re doing what we can to help them reestablish as quickly as possible.”
The community association had planned a ‘picnic in the park’ on Neighbour Day with complimentary food. Organizers decided to collect cash donations for those displaced by the fire and iPads were on hand to allow Neighbour Day participants access to the GoFundMe account.
“We wanted to make sure that we were doing what we could to bring together the community to support them,” explained Naested. “Trying to get them in place with different housing and, ideally, to get them support as far as first month’s rent and damage deposit.”
The campaign has a fundraising goal of $40,000 and Saturday's event received support from several communitiy organizations.
“It’s certainly not just Sunalta Community Association,” said Naested. “We’re here with Scarboro Community Association, we’re here with Scarboro United Church, with Alpha House and with Elizabeth Frye putting on this event as well as Calgary Strong Neighbourhood Associations.”
Jodie Wiebe, one of the displaced residents, says she’s thankful that she’s alive and that everyone else is okay. She was moved by Saturday’s show of support. “It’s overwhelming,” said Wiebe. “When I came and saw all these people, I was overwhelmed that all these people would come and support us.”
Daniel Asfeday, a university student who lived with his brother, was on vacation at the time of the fire. After returning to Calgary, he learned he would not be able go home as questions remained regarding the building’s structural integrity.
“I’m kind of new to Canada. It’s two years since I arrived,” explained Asfeday. “Losing your stuff is one thing, losing adaptation is another.”
“We are going to recover. It’s a lesson on how to live in Canada from now on because I feel warm to see everyone cares about you.”
The fire occurred on an RNDSQR construction site and one of the company’s founders took park in Sunalta’s Neighbour Day.
“We wanted to rally together to see how we can help,” said Alkarim Devani. “We do all of our stuff in the inner city communities.”
Devani says three of the four units in the complex had been presold and the building was in the framing stage with plans for possession dates in March 2018. The company is waiting to return to the site and Devani believes the project will start from scratch after excavation.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
To contribute to the fundraising campaign visit Sunalta Fire Fundraiser