The Fraternal Order of the Eagles has donated its fully-stocked disaster relief trailer to the British Columbia Salvation Army and distributed the funds budgeted for the vehicle to six local organizations.
“The Eagles are people helping people and that’s our main goal,” said Shirley Hunt, provincial junior past president of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and a member of Ladysmith and Chemainus/ Crofton.
Each year the Eagles’ Disaster Relief Association board of directors, made up of members from Ladysmith, Campbell River and Chemainus/Crofton, had allocated funds for the trailer’s insurance and put more aside in the event that they’d need to restock items.
However, the board made the decision earlier this month to donate the trailer and its contents, valued at approximately $23,000, to the Salvation Army’s Disaster Relief Services.
There was some discussion between the two groups about whether the semi trailer could be kept on the island in Nanaimo, but the Sally Ann felt it could best be used in Chilliwack.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 2101 then decided to divide the remaining $3,000 and donate $500 each to the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association’s Food Bank, Ladysmith Family and Friends, Ladysmith Historical Society, Ladysmith Sportsmen’s Club, Ladysmith Seniors Centre, Ladysmith Search and Rescue.
“We donated it to who we felt need it the most,” said Frank Crucil, a director on the Eagles’ Disaster Relief Association, noting the government regulations that restrict where they can donate bingo proceeds.
Ladysmith Friends and Family (LAFF) supports family services and the funds donated by the Eagles will go towards the morning program that runs five days a week and averages 75 people per day.
Executive director for programs and early years community coordinator Jacqueline Neligan said they are extremely grateful for the support.
“Those specific dollars go to ensure families have a nutritious meal to eat when they come to programming,” Neligan said.
“One of our volunteers, her dad is actually an Eagle and has been for years. She’s able to stretch the dollars in the kitchen a long way and she advocates for food for our families that need a helping hand.”
The Eagles’ Vancouver Island Disaster Relief Trailer was born out of an idea nine years ago by Shirley’s late husband Lloyd.
At that time it was the Eagles’ first disaster relief semi-trailer of its kind in Canada and now several other chapters in Ontario and Hope.
The Ladysmith and Chemainus/Crofton Fraternal Orders each donated $5,000 back in 2007 to help acquire the trailer and stock it with everything from blankets and individual first aid kits to toiletries such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.
“We put a lot of work into that thing. My husband and I took two weeks, scraping the bottom of it and repainting it and it looked pretty good,” Shirley said.
The Eagles had only just completed the relief trailer when were asked to assist at a flood in Duncan in 2007 resulting from high flows in the Cowichan River.
“That was the only time we’ve ever been called,” Shirley said, explaining that the government has a history of using the resources of the Salvation Army.
Shortly before his death this past June, it was Lloyd who suggested the Eagles part with the trailer and that the Salvation Army would make the best use out of it.
“I hate it to see it go but if you’re not being called out what’s the point,” Hunt said.
Another $1,100 was also given to the Salvation Army to help with transportation costs and insurance.
In Chilliwack, the trailer is now parked next to the Salvation Army’s food bank and is being used as additional storage for dry goods in addition to supplies for the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) division.
EDS director John McEwan said they are grateful for the trailer which is the only one in Canada that’s been donated to the Salvation Army and joins a larger fleet of emergency vehicles and mobile kitchens spread across the U.S.
“We’re going to be able to store stuff and then if there’s a medium to a large fire be able to haul the whole unit instead of making multiple trips,” McEwan said.
Other items donated by the Eagles that were in the trailer included blowup mattresses, sleeping bags and a generator among other things.
“All of those items can be used as part of a disaster response,” McEwan said, adding that the organization “would like to thank the Fraternal Order of Eagles throughout the province for their generous donation to the Emergency Services work of the Salvation Army.”