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Six On/ Six Off

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Paying It Forward in YMM

Off: The community of Fort McMurray received so much help from people across Canada during and after the fire in May; with so many people still in need after that event, philanthropy must be struggling, right?

On: We are so grateful for all the kindness and support we received during our time of need. Perhaps what this has done, more than ever before, is inspire us to pay it forward. Upon our return to our community in June, members of this community dug deep and continue to do so in order to ensure everyone in our community has their needs met.


Off: But surely there must be a lot of increased need due to the wildfire? How can you address that?

On: There is no denying it. Many of our local social profits, such as the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, have seen dramatic increases in those seeking their services. This is a challenge now and will continue to be for some time – and that is why paying forward the kindness we were shown in May is so critical.


Off: During times like the one facing our region, doesn’t everyone just become focused on themselves and their own survival and welfare?

On: Maybe it’s because we have so many residents from the East Coast who have been through hard times. Or maybe it’s the pioneering spirit in this place. But instead of falling apart during hard times, this community has a way of coming together. Perhaps the incredible story of the fundraising success for local firefighter and hero Bo Cooper is the best example of this. One man’s story captured the heart of an entire region, our donations and support giving him another year of life with his family and friends. That says a lot about our nature.


Off: Where is all the money coming from? Are the corporations still giving?

On: Industry partners continue to support the community, because their employees live here, too. And after the fire a lot of new corporations entered the picture in their desire to support a struggling community. But a lot of the giving in this community continues to be from the same source it always has been: the grassroots core, the people who live, work and play here. They give because they are investing in our community, our people and our future.


Off: What does the future hold for social profit groups and their sustainability, given the increased demand? Can they survive?

On: Just like every other business (and resident) in the community, the social profit organizations are finding ways to be more cost-efficient, and creative ways to raise more funds. It’s a challenging time, but innovation doesn’t only come when things are easy; it happens when things are hard, too. Social profit organizations are being challenged to be innovative as they navigate these difficult times – and thanks to the amazing people who operate them, they will sail on through even the worst storms.


Off: What can one person do? I mean, there isn’t much I can do, right?

On: Actually one person can change almost everything. One donation, one hour volunteered, one offer of skills or expertise, just one person: all these add up to helping our community continue to meet our needs. Your skills, your time, your donation (no matter the amount!), your willingness to help; these are all it takes to change our community, and to pay it forward. Don’t discount the power of one, because you might be the one who could change everything. Give your time, your donations and your energy and see our community succeed. That’s not only how you can change your community but it’s also how you (yes, you!) can change the world.


A freelance writer, blogger and professional communicator who is passionate about her child, her work, her pets, her community and the power of words, Theresa Wells believes perfection in life is achieved when she is surrounded by amazing people, fantastic stories, cold gin and really hot shoes.