By: The Working Forest Staff
MY POWELL RIVER NOW — Rona Doucette and Tamara Meggitt started Loonies for Loggers in September, to support families impacted by the forestry workers strike.
The impasse between Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers Union has passed the six-month mark, and the ripple effect has been felt across Vancouver Island, as well as in Powell River.
That’s where Loonies for Loggers comes in.
With support from local businesses, schools, government, and individuals, they’ve been delivering groceries and other items to the forestry families.
Meggitt said every little bit helps.
“We joke and say that we are going to keep scurvy away and keep these families fed and it frees up an extra dollar or two for them to support another local business that’s fabulous, but if we can keep food on their tables and help in that aspect, then that’s huge if we can lessen the grocery bill,” she added.
They’ve also helped families struggling with cancer, by providing them with fuel cards for their trips to and from cancer clinics.
During the holiday season, they also delivered Christmas hampers.
But their spirit of giving is extending beyond Christmas.
Meggitt said they were in Port McNeill, Port Hardy, and Port Alice on Sunday, doing their first food drive of 2020.
“So that was a 17-hour day on the road,” Meggitt said this afternoon. “Today we’re home, reloading and heading into Gold River tomorrow.”
It’s been a challenging balancing act for both women, but Meggitt said they’ve received a huge amount of support from their spouses along the way.
“We have our husbands,” Meggitt said. “We call them the brawn behind the beauty, but they’re great with helping us shop and doing the heavy lifting and stuff – we can only do so much lifting. So they do a lot of that and helping us pack the trailer and getting us on the road. And when we get to different locations, people are great about helping us unload the trailer and set up so that people can shop for some groceries.”
As the months drag on, Meggitt said she and Doucette have been focused on building a relationship among the families they are helping.
“Because a lot of the loggers have so much pride, it’s very hard for them to accept help, to begin with, so we have spent the past several months building up that trust and building up that rapport for them, so it’s important that Rona and I stay on the front lines with them, especially as the mental health crisis becomes more and more apparent,” Meggitt said.
Meggitt said the strike has taken an emotional toll on everyone involved.
“We both know and recognize that we are both going to need counselling at the end of this,” she said. “There’s been a lot of horrific stories of the losses of people, the emotional struggles of people.”
Some people have handed over the keys to their homes and walked away.
“They can’t stay,” Meggitt said. “They can’t stay and wait this out. They have to do something so they’re leaving for Alberta and walking away from mortgages.”
She said the best way to help out is through cash donations: “We can bulk buy, we can make the dollars stretch, and deliver the food.”
Meggitt said she and Doucette will keep going as long as the donations allow them to: “We will keep going until it’s over and at least a month afterwards.”
Their food-delivery program covers Sooke, Port Hardy, Gold River, Port Alice, Courtenay, Campbell River, and Powell River.
To donate or help out, visit their Facebook page.
See more HERE.