From left: Emmanuel Osie Jr.

Surrey family back on its feet after house fire

Annual Walmart fundraiser for the red cross on until Oct. 28

by Andrew Fleming

If you’ve ever felt guilt for shopping at Walmart instead of at an independent local business, you can offset it this month by doing a good deed at the same time.

The retail giant is once again matching every dollar donated by customers at the till, to a maximum of $2,000 per store, until Oct. 28 as part of an annual fundraiser for the Canadian Red Cross to support communities across Canada affected by disaster.

While the non-profit organization is best known for helping out during major disasters, they also offer emergency assistance for minor ones.

“The things that get the most attention are things like the Fort McMurray fire in the way support was given out because it was on such a large scale, but a lot of the work we do is for individual families,” said Canadian Red Cross spokesperson Andrew Hopkins. “Every three hours, on average, the Red Cross responds to an emergency within Canada’s borders. Sometimes it just comes down to helping people get back to work, say for example, a mechanic loses his tools, but we want to make sure people are able to get back on their feet and back to work and get their lives back to normal, or what we call the new normal after a disaster has occurred. “

Recent recipients of their emergency assistance was a Surrey family who lost their home three months ago.

Hairdresser and mother of three Catherine Sonpon came home from work June 22 to find her young family’s Johnson Heights rental apartment ablaze after a computer on the balcony malfunctioned. Nobody was hurt but several units were damaged and her own home was gutted.

“I remember feeling sadness and pain,” said Sonpon. “My family was safe, and material losses are not as important, but I was still sad to lose all our stuff.”

The City of Surrey provided immediate 72-hour assistance but the family – husband Emmanuel Aryitey and children aged two, three and seven months – required more help as they didn’t have home insurance to cover their losses.

The family found themselves living at a local Sandman hotel and many of their immediate needs were met by donations of groceries, toiletries and other necessities of life by Walmart.

“The Red Cross was very supportive. They help people in times of need – not just with financial assistance, but they showed us love and support to help us recover from the fire,” said Sonpon, who attended a promotional event Oct. 12 with her husband and kids at Walmart’s Guildford location to show their gratitude. “People usually think of the Red Cross responding to major disasters like an earthquake in other parts of the world. We didn’t even know they help people in Surrey recover from smaller disasters like our apartment fire.”

She and Aryitey, also a hairstylist, are now back to work and helping their kids adjust to their new normal in a new home in Whalley.

Since 2003, Walmart Canada has raised and donated nearly $29 million in disaster-relief funding. Funds raised during the annual fall campaign are set aside to help local families after disaster strikes in their respective communities and support the distribution of essential emergency supplies, hot meals, new clothing and a safe place to stay for those affected, as well as training and equipment for local volunteer teams.

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