Pat MacGregor jumped into action this week when she heard the news that many of her beloved Fairwinds Lodge residents lost everything in a fire last weekend.
“I put everything else on hold, and opened up the church for people to drop off donations,” said the pastor at Sarnia’s Community of Christ Church, who was also a dining room server at the retirement home that went up in flames last Sunday night.
Within hours, dozens of donations turned into hundreds, then thousands. The Murphy Road Church was filled to the brim by Saturday when the donation drive closed, and Fairwinds residents were invited to come take whatever they need – everything from clothes, to toiletries, books and board games.
“The donations have really been overwhelming – Sarnia is just incredible,” said Lisa Rufo, general manager at Kensington Court Retirement Residence in Windsor. She’s among a number of staff from Sienna Senior Living, which also manages Fairwinds, in Sarnia to help with the donation drive.
Once residents and staff are able to take what they need, the rest will be donated to River City Vineyard and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
“It’s all been very tough,” said MacGregor, greeting residents, most of whom she knows well, and their families, at the church Saturday. “But when they walk though the doors and see all of this, it’s really emotional.”
Last Sunday, one-third of the three story building on Michigan Ave. burned as all 120 residents were safely evacuated, in what officials are calling the biggest emergency response in decades.
“Team members in Sarnia continue to work tirelessly to ensure residents and families are receiving the support they need following the fire at Fairwinds Lodge,” said Nadia Daniell-Colarossi, spokesperson for Sienna Senior Living Inc.
Some 75 firefighters from Sarnia, Point Edward, St. Clair Township and Port Huron battled the blaze, which began around 11 p.m. Sunday. A temporary shelter was set up at Lambton College, and some residents were taken to Sunbridge Hotel.
Officials deemed the fire ‘accidental’ late Wednesday, while the Ontario Fire Marshal is still considering two separate ignition sources, a news release noted.
“We are now focusing on assisting residents with finding new accommodations,” Daniell-Colarossi said, adding that efforts are underway to recover personal belongings from the scene, which remains closed.
“Members of our operations team and Winmar Restoration are on the ground to assist with all of these aspects. We hope to be able to convey these details shortly.”
She added that the outpouring of donations from the community has been heartwarming.
“Thank you on behalf of all residents, families and team members. We are truly grateful to be part of such a special community.”