The Ocean Ridge complex on Pacific Avenue sustained major damage in the May 15 blaze.

Community steps up to support White Rock fire victims

Churches raise nearly $30,000; individuals and businesses raise thousands more

Local churches have rallied around families displaced by a fire that destroyed a White Rock apartment building – raising $27,663 for victims of the Five Corners blaze.

“God loves us and told us to care for our neighbours,” said Rev. Peter Klenner, chair of the group that organized the fundraising drive. “This is something we’re supposed to do.”

Members of 14 churches on the Semiahmoo Peninsula donated the funds – including one church of 80 people that raised $10,000.

A May 15 fire at the four-storey Ocean Ridge complex, at 15210 Pacific Ave., forced nearly 100 residents out of their condominiums, and damaged a dozen ground-level businesses. Fire investigators have determined the blaze was deliberately set.

Klenner, pastor at All Saints Community Church in White Rock, said the church donations were topped up with $1,755 raised by the Pizzazz model and talent agency and $1,000 by Save-On Foods in White Rock, bringing the total raised to $30,418. The money has been given to Sources, a local non-profit social services agency, which is distributing funds to residents based on need.

“People were very generous,” said Klenner. “There is so much negative press about the church, but it’s not all bad. There are actually church people that do good stuff. This is one example.”

Klenner said after the fire, the Peninsula Pastors’ Network formed a task force to help fire victims. The group helped find everything from accommodation and furniture to clothing and toiletries. They also raised thousands of additional dollars to help uninsured residents pay for the cost of removing debris from their units.

One example of the outpouring of support from the community involved a couple that moved into a recreational vehicle after the fire. After going five days without a hot meal, the couple contacted Klenner, who asked a retailer for a good price on a barbecue. The store manager offered one at no cost – and also delivered it to the couple’s trailer that night. He also donated a new gas-powered generator.

In addition to the money raised by local churches, many local businesses and individuals came forward with donations. An online crowd-funding campaign started by Laura Cornale, whose business Laura’s Coffee Corner was damaged in the fire, raised $20,000 for displaced residents.

David Young, executive director of Sources, said the support for fire victims shows how willing local residents and business owners are to reach into their pockets and respond.

“We are fortunate to live and work in a community that not only has the capacity to respond in a very generous way of supporting their neighbours in times of need, but also have the heart to do so. You have the combination of both here in this community that isn’t necessarily the case in others.”

Meanwhile, Klenner is meeting with local pastors in an effort to maintain a church group able to quickly help in the event of future emergencies.

“We’re going to set up sort of an encore emergency team,” he said. “This is just one apartment block. Imagine a city block or imagine a hazardous spill on the railway line.”

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