Readers of The Journal will recall that on July 15, a convoy of vehicles made up of members of 4-Wheel Drive clubs from the Lower Mainland, North Vancouver, and the Fraser Valley came to Ashcroft, bringing, food, water, toiletries, supplies, and more for those affected by the Elephant Hill wildfire.
Jill Walker, who organized that initial convoy, decided that it was not good enough to be a “one and done” effort. That is why, on August 26, another convoy of vehicles made up of 4-Wheel Drive club members made the journey to Ashcroft: this time to drop off furniture, mattresses, and other supplies for the Boston Flats Relief Society, which is assisting those affected by the wildfires.
More than a dozen vehicles made the journey from Chilliwack on August 26 and convened on the storage bay the society is using at the junction of Highways 97C and 1, where convoy members and local volunteers unloaded the donated items and placing them in storage.
Despite the intense sun and heat, the mood was cheerful; when one of the organizers, Joris Eckering, spotted a donation of toilet paper, he called out “Good! We have a bathroom, but no toilet paper!”
Walker says she first got involved with the convoy because of a friend, Charlene Spence, who had recently moved back to Ashcroft, but who had had to go back to the coast because of smoke in the immediate aftermath of the Elephant Hill wildfire.
Walker asked Spence about her situation, and that of the area, and says she thought that “There had to be something we could do for these people. There was no power, no water, no food, so I thought I’d figure something out. I’ve always done unto others as I’d want done unto me. But I’m one person—what can I do?”
The words of one of her friends went through her head: “‘The 4-Wheel Drive community is a very tight-knit community.’ So I posted an ad on the Four Wheel Drive Association Facebook page, asking if anyone wanted to come up here and do this with me.
“There was a lot of response, and after a week 25 people showed up at Cottonwood Mall [in Chilliwack] with donations they’d collected themselves over five days.”
Asked what made her decide to organize a second convoy, Walker says that they knew that the Ashcroft Indian Band and Boston Flats had both suffered losses. “Boston Flats: we thought retired people, maybe not a lot of insurance.
“And there are some of us [from the initial convoy] who have stayed in touch; we were strangers, and now we’re best friends. A couple of weeks after we got back [after July 15] we got together and decided that we can’t just be a one and done type thing. If we’re going to do this, we have to help; we have to make an impact.
“So there were seven or eight of us planning, collecting, hanging out and having fun, and we decided we were a team. So we came back to help.”
Anita Clench—another of the Boston Flats Relief Society organizers—says that the donations received by the society are there to help everyone from Williams Lake to the Ashcroft Reserve who lost belongings in the fires. “We are helping everybody and anybody. We call it Boston Flats, mainly because that’s where we are.”
She says she was inspired to start the society after being evacuated to Kamloops, and meeting up with others there. “When I found out that Boston Flats was burned down, I wondered who else was going to help them? Who else will help them with furniture? We’ll take furniture; we’ll help.”
Clench says there is no actual end date for the relief effort. “This is our last big donation coming in, because our warehouse is overflowing, so we’re going to wait to see how much we can get out. We have four families who need stuff by the end of this month who are moving into places, and we’ll see where we are at that point. If we find out there’s more we’ll keep on going longer.”
Clench says that they are still accepting donations, of goods and cash, and that people can get hold of the society through the Boston Flats Relief Facebook page. “We’re not turning anything away. We will accept everything. What we can’t give away we’ll put into a yard sale, and the proceeds will go Boston Flats relief. And if anything is left we’ll have an auction.”
“It is surprising how much people come forward, and help,” she continues. “It’s phenomenal the amount of donations we’ve had, the amount of support we’ve had. Jill got hold of me three weeks ago and has been planning this. I was not expecting nearly as much as what came in, and it’s great to see B.C. come together. There’s a reason it’s called ‘B.C. Strong’.”