Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek said the first urge was to try and comfort residents impacted by Friday’s condo fire.
COVID-19 has changed how a community can deal with a significant emergency like the fire at the four-storey multi-family building in the 19700 block of 56th Avenue. Typically a hug or a hand around a shoulder is offered in support.
“You’re trying to hug people, but you can’t. You’ve got to keep that social distancing,” van den Broek said.
So people are helping in the only ways they know how in this new age of a global pandemic. They are donating money and goods, with some local businesses stepping forward to coordinate.
”I am so proud. I love or community,” the mayor said. “There was no hesitation.”
Even the agencies that help people are having to rethink how they do their work. Typically in an emergency, victims would be transported to a nearby community centre or other government building. Van den Broek said in this fire, TransLink brought in a bus and agencies met with residents one on one to help them get the assistance they needed. It’s still too soon to know when the residents can return home to Madison Place.
“We just adapt and do what we can,” she said.
That also means there may be mis-steps. Initially, residents were given a voucher to a restaurant only to discover that it has been closed permanently due to COVID-19. The mayor apologized on behalf of the Langley Emergency Program, noting the volunteers were shocked when they found out.
“They felt horrified,” she noted. “We do apologize. We made a mistake, but we rectified it as soon as we could.”
Community support was swift and strong since Friday’s fire so much so that the public is being asked to hold off on donating more goods for a bit so what’s been given can be sorted and distributed.
Food and more
Brogan’s Diner at 20555 56th Ave. has been involved since the start, staying open late Friday to feed displaced residents and offering free meals for residents for up to two weeks post-fire. It has also been collecting clothes and household goods for residents. Volunteers are helping to sort the items for distribution.
General manager Karl Schifferns posted an offer to help on his company’s Facebook page for SK Automarket Sales, which is a few blocks away from the burned building, and was quickly overwhelmed by the response.
“At this point we need to stop with the physical donations. We have run out of room to put stuff,” he wrote the day after the fire. “We are now in organize and distribute mode. We need somewhere to sort it all, if anybody has space to donate please contact me asap. We will need some volunteers as well I’m thinking.”
SK has asked people to pause with more donations as it finds a place to distribute what’s already been collected. It expects to have those details shortly.
Cash and gift cards
Less than a block away from Madison Place is Samz Neighbourhood Pub which also joined efforts to help residents.
“Last night a devastating fire left dozens displaced and with so much uncertainty for their future, we will be accepting cash and gift card donations for those affected, all weekend,” the pub posted on Facebook. “Madison Place residents, we’re here and have hot coffee and breakfast for you this morning…on us. Come let us help reset your tired souls.”
The administrators for the Langley City Community Facebook page received so much activity related to the fire that they set up a dedicated public page, Langley Community for Madison Fire Victims, where people are debating back and forth on the best ways to help.
There are at least five gofundme campaigns set up in relation to the Madison Place fire. (The details are provided for information purposes. Readers must make up their own minds on whether to support any fundraiser.)
• Madison Place Fire – Donations will be shared is a gofundme campaign with a goal of raising $100,000. The total as of Monday morning was $2,410. https://www.gofundme.com/f/22rx9nwy80
• Victims of Langley Condo Fire July 17, 2020 has raised $155 of its $10,000 goal. It was created by the mother of one of the tenants. https://www.gofundme.com/f/victims-of-langley-condo-fire-july-17-2020
• Family with baby loses everything in Langley fire is another campaign. It’s goal is $40,000. So far, it’s raised $3,271. https://www.gofundme.com/f/family-with-baby-loses-everything-in-langley-fire It was created by Ranvinder Moundhi, the father of the four-month-old baby.
• Family with 2 year old kid left homeless is a campaign that has raised $2,856 of its $9,000 goal. It was started by a resident’s sister. https://www.gofundme.com/f/lost-our-appartment-due-to-fire-19730-56a-ave
• Madison Place Fire is a campaign set up with a goal of $8,000. It has reached about 10 per cent of its goal and was set up by a Fort Langley resident. https://www.gofundme.com/f/gofundmefmadison-place-fire?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR3eIHZaY1GCrkiPyJRs1tG5Las1lXTrBdoijqT8XYzYE-FA8Y_F4Fj5A-A
The Downtown Langley Business Association is surveying its members on any initiatives to assist the residents of Madison Place. The list will be provided to Langley City as a reference to give to the people who have been displaced by the fire. Businesses can email email@example.com.
Feel free to contact the Langley Advance Times with any additional information on help for the residents of Madison Place.
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