Evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfires look through donated goods and clothing May 5 at the Bold Center in Lac la Biche, Alberta. Pope Francis has added his name to the list of people offering condolences to those affected by the massive forest fire that has led to the evacuation of Fort McMurray. CNS photo/Courtesy of Mark Blinch, Reuters

Catholic college in Edmonton houses Fort McMurray evacuees

By  Lasha Morningstar, Canadian Catholic News
  • May 10, 2016

EDMONTON – A smiling St. Joseph's College employee poked her head around Danica Wolitski's door and said, "We've got another family with three children."

St. Joseph's College on the University of Alberta campus is housing evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfires in its new women's campus. The college is focusing on families and those deemed medically vulnerable.

The college is especially concerned to provide homes for families with little children and fussing babies, so they do not have do live in the cot-lined barracks of various evacuations centres, said Wolitski, director of development. For vulnerable people with medical conditions, especially women with high-risk pregnancies, the University of Alberta Hospital is right next door.

The goal is to take in 10 families, who could be living there anywhere from six weeks to two months.

The apartments are ideal because they have kitchen facilities. The setting also offers a full cafeteria and four counselors available to meet the traumatized survivors. Basilian Father Glenn McDonald even has started a weekly children's liturgy.

Wolitski said several people came up with the idea and, once she posted the plan on her personal website, she began receiving donations.

Edmonton's Catholic Social Services has been in touch and has offered to help out. Goodwill called and sent over 100 comforters. The campus food bank donated gift baskets of food.

Wolitiski said the bottom line for those fleeing from Fort McMurray: "They are safe here."

(Morningstar is a reporter for Western Catholic Reporter, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Edmonton.)

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