After the town of Lytton, BC, was almost fully destroyed by a wildfire on June 30, Powell River resident Patty Renton knew she had to do something to help the people she grew up with.
“I work for Tla’amin Health now, but I grew up in Lytton,” said Renton. “Many of my family and friends still live there. In fact, I was planning on going back to celebrate my birthday later this month. The fire changed that.”
Hearing from her family and friends in the days since the fire, Renton knew she needed to help somehow.
“My cousin made a good point, that there’s lots of fundraising and donations of emergency supplies going on right now, but what about the long-term?” said Renton. “It’s going to be months before people will be allowed to even go back into town to salvage anything, and a year or two before the town is rebuilt. My niece called me and said she needed to go buy laundry soap, because there wasn’t any of that donated. So I decided to start a gift card drive.”
Renton, who is a Lytton First Nation band member, is collecting gift cards in any amount for the following stores: Mark’s; Canadian Tire; Save-On-Foods; Walmart; gas stations; and BC Ferries. BC Ferries cards are a priority for her, as she’s heard from several people across Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, herself included, who have room for family members to come stay, but ferry costs can be a barrier. She is also accepting cash, which she will use to purchase more gift cards.
“Lytton First Nation’s council has a database of the people who are displaced, and they will be distributing the gift cards where they are needed,” said Renton. “I’ll be collecting gift cards until the end of July, and then I’ll be sending them to the council so they can make sure people are taken care of.”
Anyone who would like to donate gift cards to Renton’s drive can contact her at 604.414.5431. For those who would like a tax receipt, Lytton First Nation has set up a direct e-transfer account with Scotiabank as a qualified donee. Donations can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org; donors should include their contact information in the comment box to be issued a tax receipt.
The GoFundMe campaign “Helping our friends in Lytton” by the Savage Society is also an official fundraiser organized in part by one of Renton’s cousins, with proceeds going to the immediate and long-term needs of displaced residents.
Renton has already had a great response to her campaign.
“I wrote my letter on Monday, July 5, and took a few copies around to my neighbours,” she said. “Before I got back to my house, I had $400 in donations from just the people on my street. Powell River is really good at sticking by people when they’re having a hard time.”