Emergency Support Services (ESS) volunteers have been put to the test this year assisting people displaced by the wildfires and will receive assistance in return for their valuable work.
Volunteers have been working around the clock to help thousands of evacuees and since July 7, Terrace and area ESS volunteers have contributed more than 1,000 hours of time helping with lodgings in Prince George and Kamloops, said Naomi Gourlay, ESS director for the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, to council Aug. 28.
Evacuees have come to New Hazelton, Terrace and Kitimat, and volunteers have opened multiple mini reception centres in the last few months, met with more than 100 evacuees and provided more than $15,000 worth of services in groceries, billetting and lodging, said Gourlay.
“The experience we are having is unprecedented. It comes with challenges, uncertainies, hardships and stress but we’ve been able to help in positive and constructive ways, and having engaged and trained ESS volunteers is key,” said Gourlay.
To ensure volunteers are up to date on their training, they go to annual Northern Emergency Support Services Training (NESST) Conferences, the next of which is to be held here in Terrace in April 2018.
It will welcome volunteers from across the north to network, learn, train and exercise together, said Gourlay.
“Over the course of the wildfires, I’ve heard time and time again how comforted volunteers were to see and work with volunteers they met and worked with at NESST. If our community faced a disaster here, these people would be here,” she said.
In past years, there has been surplus money from conferences that moves forward to the next training weekend but this year, ESS pockets are emptier than usual due to the economy and the difficulty in getting sponsorships, said Gourlay.
So ESS was asking council to waive the sportsplex rental cost, more than $3,100, for the weekend event, she added.
City councillors agreed ESS is invaluable.
“I support the request. I think it’s really important,” said Stacey Tyers.
Mayor Carol Leclerc, who appeared by phone for the meeting, said the city should waive the sportsplex fee.
“I think the service they provide is priceless and it’s a small token that we can do is waive $3,100 and I fully support it,” said Leclerc.
Acting mayor Michael Prevost agreed, saying considering how well trained the volunteers are and what services they offer to help people in their greatest time of need.
Council voted unanimously in favour of waiving the sportsplex rental fee.