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Evacuation Recreational Duties 2017

6 November 2017

Arnold Custer , CSRC, Pelican Narrows

Evacuation Recreational Duties 2017

During the time of the Evacuation it was about 9:00pm that night when we had the mandatory evacuation. Looking outside from my place you could see the orange glow from the north was glaring, people were packing up and all the gas stations were filled up - or should I say lined up with vehicles. The announcement came on FB and the Council was calling their people on their home phones. My family and I took 2 trucks and we loaded up all our belongings. Just the day before I had a meeting in Creighton at the NSCRD Office. As soon as I left the office I went to go grab a coffee at Mc Donald's and off I went to Pelican. During my drive I could see a plume of smoke from the wild fire and Highways told me ''Sorry buddy the road is closed''. In my mind I thought it couldn't be and then I met with my sister Marie and her friend Karen. We left my truck in Creighton and we came around to The Pas, Manitoba and took that cut across to Red Earth, Shoal Lake, Nipawin, Choiceland and finally made it home at 5:30am that morning! Mind you, I only had like 5 hours of sleep the day before, then this whole evacuation began. We left for Prince Albert that night and didn't make it to PA until 3am that morning, because we had to wait for my mother in-law as she didn't have a vehicle. Then we finally arrived at my nieces house in PA she told us make ourselves at home.

That morning we got up and went to the Senator Allen Bird Gymnasium to register with Red Cross. As soon as I walked in there were groups of people lining up all having a wristband. Everyone was settling in to the city that day and Hank Ballantyne -The Principal, gave me a call to attend a meeting. I attended the meeting and all the educators, Bus drivers, TA`S and all that were employed with the Education Department were in attendance. That night before I gathered all the info, thinking of what to do with the PBCN members residing in Saskatoon at the Soccer Center and TravelLodge. So I came up with some recreational activities like Mars Mini Golf Course, Go Carts, Zoo, Ruckers, Apex, Corn Maze and pitched my ideas to everyone gathered around the room. The majority of the staff stayed in PA that day and there was only a handful of us heading to Saskatoon. That evening I received a call from the Executive Director - Arnette Weberbeeds of PBCN Health Services to try and communicate with the Saskatoon Agencies. So that morning, I attended the Interagency meeting happening at the Soccer Center. In attendance there was the Emergency Social Services, Red Cross, PBCN Health Services Personnel, Saskatoon City Police, FSIN Personnel, Hertz Northern Bus Lines, PBCN Education Staff and other agencies as well too; numerous to mention.

In our meetings we discussed how to busy the people from Pelican Narrows. They told us that they will be donating free transport to the people of Pelican Narrows. They also had free passes to the events we planned to purchase which initially saved us a lot of dollars! Of all the events we planned throughout the whole 2.5 week stay. The City of Saskatoon gave us a really huge discount on all the recreational activities we had planned. During each and every day the staff and I provided rides to the people and all took turns, as there was only 7 people helping out daily. One night I recall I drove from the Soccer Center to 8th Street Rainbow Cinemas. I must have made like 5 trips that night and staff were getting preoccupied with other duties. Each and every day we did this - all of us became so overwhelmed and exhausted with work in Saskatoon, doing 12 hour jobs and commuting from PA every morning. The people that saw us wanted to use us as taxi drivers around the city and we had to put our foot down on the people, as we were there to help them get busy during the days of the evacuation. The bus lines really made our transportation issues go away as the owner wanted to know which activities needed buses and forwarded all my info to her. We did this for the whole 2.5 Weeks practically everyday, and we ran into  problems but with a crew of ladies and 2 men all was smooth sailing, even though sometimes turbulence hit. It really gave us an adventure during our 2.5 weeks in Saskatoon and even traveling back and forth from Saskatoon by the end of the day I was dead tired. My children and wife looked at me and said, " you got to rest" and I told them "I had to do it for the people as they don't know the city. We have to keep them busy so they don't get into mischief or something.''

When the word came to return home, most of the people thanked all of us staff from the school for being there for them and still today we would run into the odd person giving us thanks for being there for them during the evacuation and I told them we had to do our jobs just to give them recreational activities to do. So as a Community and a family, there was something positive we all seen out of all of this - which was the whole community coming together and caring for one another no matter if times are hard whatever life throws at us, people will be there to give a fellow community member a helping hand and get them back up on their own 2 feet again. It was quite an adventurous two and half weeks which each of us made new friends and new networks as well, whatever we encountered we helped each other out, given in any circumstance we overcame and created friendship throughout the membership of PBCN and the City of Saskatoon.

In closing, Thanks to Marie Custer/ADI Worker, Georgina Linklater, George Custer, Caroline Bear, Jolene Ballantyne, Madeline Ballantyne from Health Services staff and the Education staff Lana Henry, Mildred Ratt, Mary Ann McCallum, Rebecca McCallum, Karen Lambert, Nancy McCleod, Margaret Brass Phyllis Merasty, Sharon Sullivan, Audrey & Dallas Charles, Iona Linklater, Heather Carter/Red Cross, Diana/Emergency Social Services and City of Saskatoon, who all did a fantastic and terrific job from August 29th to September 20th, 2017.

ikosi & tiniki (farewell & thanks).           


Arnold Custer , CSRC, Pelican Narrows


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