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Church concert reunites residents, staff impacted by Fairwinds Fire

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

When Tina Mel first returned to Fairwinds Lodge a few days after a devastating fire at the Sarnia retirement home, something struck her.

Fairwinds GM Tina Mel. (Bev Walkling photo)

“Across the atrium stood a quote in one of my manager’s offices, that was untouched by the water or fire damage,” the home’s general manager told a crowd gathered at Grace United Church recently. “It’s a quote that has kept us going through much of the pandemic, and I’ve looked back on many times in this past month. It goes like this:

“You never really know the true impact you have on those around you.

You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them.

You never know how much your kindness turns someone’s entire life around.

You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk

So don’t wait to be kind; don’t wait for someone else to be kind first.

Don’t wait for better circumstances, or for someone to change.

Just be kind

Because you never know how much someone needs it.”

She was speaking to more than 200 people gathered at the Church last month, where a special concert was staged for the former residents, staff and their families impacted by the Jan. 15 fire — many who were reunited for the first time in weeks.

More than 200 people gathered at Grace United Church for a special concert held for residents, staff and families from Fairwinds Lodge. (Bev Walkling photo)

“As I look back on the days following Jan 15, there’s one feeling I am truly overwhelmed with — and that is gratitude,” said Mel. “I am extremely grateful that every single one of you are here with us today, that not a single life was lost or person was injured.”

The concert, organized by Grace United Church music director Marque Smith, along with congregation member and local musician Val Schmidt, assembled a wonderful cast of local musicians, “who donated their time and talent to put on a concert that covered multiple genres of music,” said Bev Walkling, chair of the congregational care & growth committee.

Vocalists Denise Chaulk and Liv Gogas. (Bev Walkling photo)

“So many people had been scattered to different locations without really having a chance to talk together or see each other after the fact,” she added. “So when the idea of presenting some kind of musical event was suggested, things began to move quickly to take shape.”

Performers included vocalists Liv Gogas Denise Chaulk; Rick McGregor on saxophone; flutist Tessa Catton, pianist Dan Sonier, and violinist Caitlin Mason; the Wavesong Vocal Ensemble; and trumpet solo by Abilene Clark.

The Wavesong Vocal Ensemble. (Bev Walkling photo)

Kenji Marui emceed the event that also included music director Marque Smith performing “What the world needs now” on vocals and piano while the Grace United Church choir serenaded the crowd with “Over the rainbow.”

Flutist Tessa Catton, pianist Dan Sonier, and violinist Caitlin Mason. (Bev Walkling photo)

Plans are underway to rebuild the home at the corner of Michigan and Murphy roads, where all 120 residents were safely evacuated without a single injury, in what officials are calling the biggest emergency response in decades. Community donations poured in for the residents, many of whom moved in with family, while others had temporary residence at a local hotel.

“I can say we’ve experienced so much kindness over the last month,” said Mel. “I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a community rise and come together the way that Fairwinds Lodge and the community of Sarnia-Lambton have.

“We will forever be grateful for everyones kindness during this time, and I look forward to the rebuild of Fairwinds Lodge and once again be able to serve the residents of Sarnia-Lambton.”

A full video of the concert is available here:


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