Deanna Underwood remembers the good old days when neighbours pitched in to help one another. “As it turns out those days of neighbours helping neighbours are not lost in this community,” she said.
Recently several Pauquachin residents, Chief Bruce Underwood, members of the council, staff, and housing committee were joined by eight Safeway employees to clean out a house that was severely damaged by fire in April.
“The house is about 35 years old. It can be salvaged but they didn’t have fire insurance,” said Underwood, Pauquachin housing manager. Elmer and Margaret Henry lost most of their possessions in the accidental dryer fire that destroyed the kitchen area of their home and caused severe smoke damage. “(They) are pensioners and have reached a time in their lives when they should be enjoying retirement and not starting a loan or mortgage,” said Underwood.
While the Pauquachin First Nation has submitted applications seeking funding assistance to both Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the family has established a trust fund to help the elderly couple renovate their home. “To make it as cost effective as possible we wanted to go in and do some sweat equity while we are waiting for a response to the application on their behalf,” said Underwood. They were assisted in that by community members and Safeway employees. “The First Nations held a job fair and Safeway participated,” said Underwood. “Through conversation they learned about the two recent fires here.” Henry then contacted Charlotte Penner, Safeway Corporate Social Responsibility who organized a task force of volunteers to help with the job.
“Safeway as a corporation is obviously nameless and faceless, but we work in those stores and we love our communities,” said Penner. “Safeway urges us to get out and do good in our communities and gives us the tools to volunteer.”
“It was so awesome. Bless each and every one of their hearts,” said Sheila Henry, Elmer and Margaret’s daughter.
“Our ‘Heart of Safeway’ volunteer team met at Sidney Safeway where store manager Michelle Galenzoski and Jenna Fisher sent us off with food and drink to share with all volunteers,” said Penner. “Chief Bruce Underwood and Danny Henry welcomed us and we got right to work.
“As we worked you could actually feel the breath of hope sweeping back in to this home. Elder Margaret, and each of us, was quite overcome with the kindness, laughter and genuine camaraderie that developed as we wove this memory of caring into all of our lives,” said Penner.
Store managers Ross ‘Smash’ Prendergast and Roger ‘Bang’ Junker led the charge, dismantling the charred kitchen area, revealing the core structure for further assessment. “During meal break Chief Bruce Underwood and Danny Henry both spoke of the sense of unity and close relationship that Safeway employees have provided to the Pauquachin community and thanked us for joining them to assist a family in need,” said Penner.
“It means so much, it’s never happened to us before,” said Underwood. “It’s new for Safeway and for us and we’re just delighted. I don’t know how to describe our appreciation for them.”
To donate to the trust fund go to Coast Capital Savings in Saanichton, the fund is under the name Elmer Henry.