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University of Calgary provides shelter for Fort Mac evacuees

More than 1,200 displaced residents now staying on campus
May 10, 2016
University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon speaks to staff who've been helping Fort McMurray evacuees settle in on campus. Photo by Dean Parthenis, University of Calgary

University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon speaks to staff who've been helping Fort McMurray evacuees settle in on campus. Photo by Dean Parthenis, University of Calgary 

University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon speaks to some of the evacuees staying on campus. Photo by Drew Scherban, University of Calgary

University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon speaks to some of the evacuees staying on campus. Photo by Drew Scherban, University of Calgary

Volunteers deliver supplies to the Dining Centre. Photo by Dean Parthenis, University of Calgary

Volunteers deliver supplies to the Dining Centre. Photo by Dean Parthenis, University of Calgary 

There’s a lot more activity than usual for May on the University of Calgary campus.

As one of four Calgary post-secondary institutions designated to receive evacuees from the fire in Fort McMurray, the university has welcomed more than 1,200 transplanted residents since last Friday, housing them in student residences across campus. In partnership with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), Alberta Health Services and the Canadian Red Cross, all evacuees are being provided with accommodations, all meals – including box lunches for school kids, healthcare, veterinary care for their pets and many other necessities and activities.

“I am so proud of how our university community has come together during this critical time of need,” said President Elizabeth Cannon. “Our thoughts are with all those affected by the disastrous fires in northern Alberta, and with the firefighters and other first responders working tirelessly to contain it. Please know the entire University of Calgary community is behind you, and we will continue to work hard to support you in any way we can.”

On Sunday, evacuees were treated to a Mother’s Day lunch in the Dining Centre – complete with flowers and cards – organized by University of Calgary staff and volunteers, including the children of Huntington Hills school. This week, Residence Services staff and volunteers will continue to manage a reception area in the Dining Centre providing evacuees with accommodation, food and access to campus facilities, while Kinesiology and Community Engagement staff will be organizing a variety of activities to support visitors.

“Our staff and volunteers have done a tremendous job to prepare rooms and provide a high level of service to evacuees as they settle in with their families,” says Director, Ancillary Services Voula Cocolakis whose team worked around the clock over the weekend.

The outpouring of support has been universal across campus. The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine has offered care for the pets of evacuees including food and other basic necessities for animal companions that are living with their families in their rooms. The Faculty of Social Work has put together a team to offer counselling support to help deal with the unique challenges of being displaced and having to rebuild lives after a disaster. Staff from the Faculty of Nursing and members of the Student Medical Team were also on hand to offer support to evacuees. Additionally, the Faculty of Kinesiology is providing evacuees free Outdoor Centre rentals, access to work-out facilities, including the pool and a number of drop-in fitness programs for youth and adults. Participants must have a wristband or a drivers’ licence with a Fort McMurray address and can register or check-in at client services.

As in past emergencies, the university has been inundated with generous offers of help, donations and volunteer time. UCalgary staff are continuing to coordinate with CEMA to assess what resources and support evacuees require. The best place to make a contribution is through the Canadian Red Cross, which is accepting cash donations for the Alberta Fires Appeal. Visit them at redcross.ca.

The UCalgary Fort McMurray evacuation page has been set up for further updates.

The university community responded quickly to help evacuees arriving on campus. Among those who have been working to provide services and support are:

  • Emergency Management
  • Residence Services
  • Food and Conference Services
  • Hotel Alma
  • Facilities
  • Parking Services
  • Campus Security
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
  • Faculty of Social Work
  • Cumming School of Medicine
  • Faculty of Nursing
  • Faculty of Kinesiology
  • Faculty of Law (Student Legal Assistance program and the Public Interest Law Clinic)
  • Student Medical Response team
  • Student Experience
  • Wellness Centre
  • Staff Wellness, through Lifeworks
  • IT Services
  • University Relations
  • Faculty of Arts, Department of Linguistics (translation services)
  • Aramark (University Food Services)
  • And numerous faculty and staff volunteers

Have we missed anyone? If so, please email utoday@ucalgary.ca to tell us what you’ve been doing to support Fort McMurray Evacuation effort on campus.