By Marianne Curtis
Two months after a devastating fire destroyed a Ste. Anne apartment block and forced twelve tenants from their homes, the community is ready to offer their support.
The community rushed forward to help the dozen residents who lost their homes and all their belongings in the March 26 blaze. The middle of the night blaze destroyed the St. Alphonse Avenue was caused by a carelessly disposed cigarette. Estimated loss to the structure and contents has been estimated at over $2 million.
In the wake of the blaze, the community of Ste. Anne and the surrounding area pitched in to help the dozen families that were left homeless. Most of the tenants did not have contents insurance. Almost immediately the owners of the Ste. Anne Hotel offered displaced residents a free week at the hotel and started collecting donations of clothing for several families including young children. Country Charm Resort is also providing accommodations. The reception of clothes donations has been tremendous so that there is no need for more clothes.
In addition, the community hosted three fundraisers including a breakfast by the Knights of Columbus, a social at Sainte Anne Hotel and a social at Seine River Banquet Hall. Maurice Blanchette with the CDC Sainte-Anne says that fundraising efforts have totalled approximately $11,700 with donations totaling $ 3500, and fundraising amounting to $ 8200.
“The fund will be divided equally among the tenants in the form of vouchers,” stated Blanchette. “The tenants will be asked to choose from a variety of store vouchers or credit.”
Nicole Magnan Bedient has been working hard spearheading many of the fundraising activities.
“Donated items and auction prizes arrived from as far as Ste. Rose. Most of the items were from Landmark, Beausejour, Steinbach and Winnipeg,” Magnan Bedient added.
There is also a vast array of items still available for pickup at the Ste. Anne Fellowship Church. Tenants can come pick up linens, furniture and appliances, kitchen appliances and clothing to help establish their new homes.
While the CDC seems content with issuing vouchers amounting about $900 per tenant, Louise Boucher, an uninsured tenant and victim of the fire is angry over the entire situation. Boucher moved into the apartment a week before the fire.
“When we found out they were doing the fundraisers, we were very grateful to the community,” stated Boucher. “When I asked questions about when the money was coming or how much it would be I was asked to prove hardships – I think losing everything you own qualifies as a hardship.”
The CDC Sainte-Anne has indicated the committee would be sitting down with the tenants within the first two weeks of June to disperse the monies collected in the best manner possible.
“[The vouchers will] depend on the retailer,” noted Blancette. “Some will simply open a credit account for the tenant, others have a paid up credit card or simply pay the invoice. We will accommodate the recipients as much as possible.”