Refugees fundraiser draws big crowd to Prestige
Close to 150 people attended the Prestige Inn grand ball room Saturday night for the first public fundraiser held by the Cranbrook Hub for Refugees (CHR) and they danced the night away while raising more than $3,000 for the cause.
The final total raised is likely to be closer to $5,000 once all the ticket receipts are counted and expenses deducted, said Verna Oderkirk-Bungay, the main organizer of the event.
“Cranbrook is the most generous town I’ve ever lived in and I’ve lived in towns all across the country,” she said.
The event to bring a refugee family to Cranbrook was organized in less than three weeks but still came together perfectly. “It was a little nerve-wracking getting organized, but now that it’s over I’m walking on clouds,” Oderkirk-Bungay said.
The Cranbrook business community contributed generously to the silent auction, lots of volunteers helped with the setup and the Prestige staff did everything they could to make the night a success. The music by East-West Connection, Sheva and Dave Prinn offered something for everybody to make it very enjoyable night, she said.
Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski (pictured speaking at the event) and his wife Audrey attended the function and Stetski congratulated the crowd for coming out on a busy night to support the cause.
“It was great to be a part of this important event that raised money to bring Syrian refugees to Cranbrook. My sincere thanks to the many caring citizens of Cranbrook and other communities around the Kootenay-Columbia riding who are working so hard to create a better life for those who have been living in tragic circumstances.”
Stetski said almost 14000 refugees are in Canada now and 25,000 expected by the end of February. “This is creating housing concerns in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa and the government is now asking private sponsors to consider taking on responsibility for government sponsored refugees.”
Prior to the event, CHR had already raised more than $20,000 to bring a refugee family to the Key City. CHR co-chair Gerry Warner says reports are circulating that bottlenecks have formed in major cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver where refugees are arriving first.
“This could mean that we get a refugee family sooner rather than later as we originally thought. A few weeks ago it seemed likely that we wouldn’t get our family until as late as May but now this appears to be changing,” he said.
But regardless of when the refugees arrive, CHR has organized several settlement teams that are busy preparing for their arrival, said Bonnie Spence-Vinge, the other CHR co-chair.
“We have been holding meetings weekly and the settlement teams have been active throughout the community lining up people and resources to look after the refugees’ needs such as housing, furniture, clothing, schooling, ESL and employment training,” she said.
“In the meantime I want to congratulate the citizens of Cranbrook, service groups and the business community for providing us with so much support, Spence-Vinge said.
CHR meetings take place 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Christ Church Anglican Hall with the next one scheduled for Feb. 10. The public is welcome.