A Nov. 22 fire destroyed the home of Danielle Bonnamour, her common-law partner Tony Yungen, and their children, but Bonnamour continues to be in awe of the generosity of Sylvan Lake residents.
“I just couldn’t believe the help from the community,” said Bonnamour. “Just to see people that were so giving, it didn’t even feel real. I don’t think we would find another community like this, I really don’t.”
Bonnamour and her family received so many furniture donations that they filled up the basement and the spare bedroom of the house they are now living in. They are trying to find people who need the excess furniture. They also received help from Gospel Chapel, and from Sylvan Lake and Area Community Partners’ Association, in the form of a Walmart gift card and funds to help them get back on their feet.
“It was awesome. I had no idea what we were going to do, but Community Partners just jumped right in,” said Bonnamour. She said that in addition to paying for their rent, they also helped look after their children, including a new baby and a daughter with Down’s syndrome.
“They were there from the very beginning,” said Bonnamour. “I thought after that day everything would just stop, but they were with us the entire time.”
The Community Partners’ Association maintains an emergency fund to help people like Bonnamour and her family recover from disasters. According to Tina Hurlbert, a member of the organization’s board of directors and chair for the emergency fund board, the funds had originally been donated by residents of Sylvan Lake and the surrounding area to help victims of a fire in 2010 that destroyed four homes. Hurlbert said there was an outpouring of funds from the community — so much so, that the fire’s victims didn’t need it all. The excess was turned into the emergency fund. About $13,000 remains.
“The citizens of Sylvan Lake are very generous,” said Hurlbert.
Part of this fund was used to help Bonnamour and her family, and Hurlbert said there’s still plenty left over.
“Those funds are still ongoing. We’re still helping the people, we’re still helping the victims from those funds,” she said. “We wanted people to know that those funds are still there.”
Bonnamour said she and her family had only been living in the town for four years, and they didn’t know very many people. As soon as the fire happened, she said, people immediately stepped in to help.
“Right after I was in a state of shock. My whole family was,” said Bonnamour. She added that family members living elsewhere were shocked by how much help they received from the community.
The Community Partners’ Association is a registered charity in Sylvan Lake. The organization is mostly run by volunteers, with three staff members. It runs a number of events around the town, including Coats for Kids, a Community Christmas Dinner, and fundraising activities during 1913 Days.