As fires rage in Canada, perfect strangers become heroes and friends.

An unrelenting wildfire in Western Canada has forced the evacuation of more than 88,000 people.

The massive blaze devastated the bustling town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, which was evacuated on May 3. More communities have followed suit, with Gregoire Lake Estates and Anzac residents also forced to evacuate.


A photograph from the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Department shows smoke rising from a heavily wooded area. Photo by Lynn Daina /AFP/Getty Images.

Whipping winds pushed flames toward homes and businesses, as clouds of thick smoke filled the air. Residents barely had time to get out, only grabbing the bare necessities before fleeing to safety at one of the area's work camps, which are doubling as temporary shelters.

A young girl sits on a cot at a makeshift shelter. Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

"For some reason I really wanted my son's first pair of shoes," evacuee Jason Blair told CBC television.

But amidst uncertainty, fear, and destruction, there are helpers and there is hope.

All across Canada, emergency response professionals, civilians, and perfect strangers are stepping up to help each other and get through this tragedy. Here are a few of the bright spots in the wake of this disaster.

1. Countless people have pitched in to donate clothes and food.

When you have to run for your life, clean clothes quickly become a luxury. Alberta residents stepped up big time for their neighbors in need. Food, diapers, and baby formula were also popular donations.

A woman sorts through donations at makeshift evacuation center in Lac La Biche, Alberta. Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

And not a moment too soon.

2. Canadian airline WestJet lent a hand — er, wing — for the cause.

They flew supplies in and offered to evacuate anyone in need of medical treatment.


3. In situations like this, everyone needs water. Les Wiley took to the streets to deliver it some to people evacuating their homes.

Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

4. These workers from construction company Ledcor live at camps for long stretches, but they happily gave up their beds to people evacuating the fire.

5. These refugees from Syria are new to Calgary, but they're no stranger to loss. That's why they're helping out the evacuees.

Annalise Klingbeil of the Calgary Herald spoke with one new Canadian, who shared why she feels such a strong desire to help.

6. The community is stepping up for four-legged friends too.

The Edmonton Humane Society is rescuing and housing displaced and stray animals from the area indefinitely until the owners return to claim them. Local store Champion Petfoods is supplying free food for dogs and cats at their main office.

Hang in there, kitty. This purr-fect pet isn't in Edmonton, but lots of sweet displaced dogs and cats are. Photo by Angela N./Flickr.

Ready to pitch in? Here are the best ways to help.

If you're in Canada, especially Alberta, consider donating needed supplies to an emergency relief location. Call or tweet before you go to make sure they're accepting donations, especially the items you'd like to contribute.

Madeline Cummings of the Edmonton Examiner shared a list of needs from one emergency outpost.

And if you're not close by (or even if you are) and your budget allows, you might consider giving a monetary contribution.

When tragedy strikes, food and supplies can go a long way, but with cash, shelters can buy things in bulk, so your $5 donation may go farther than $5 spent on canned goods at the store.

No matter how you help, it's important that we come together to support each other.

In times like these, every hug, every kind word, and every donation can mean the world to someone in need. With acts of kindness big and small, all of us can help the families and communities affected by tragedy.

Photo by Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are feeling the weight of it growing heavier and heavier. We miss normal life. We miss our friends. We miss travel. We miss not having to mentally measure six feet everywhere we go.

Maybe that's what was on Edmund O'Leary's mind when he tweeted on Friday. Or maybe he had some personal issues or challenges he was dealing with. After all, it's not like people didn't struggle pre-COVID. Now, we just have the added stress of a pandemic on top of our normal mental and emotional upheavals.

Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

The subject of late-term abortions has been brought up repeatedly during this election season, with President Trump making the outrageous claim that Democrats are in favor of executing babies.

This message grossly misrepresents what late-term abortion actually is, as well as what pro-choice advocates are actually "in favor of." No one is in favor of someone having a specific medical procedure—that would require being involved in someone's individual medical care—but rather they are in favor of keeping the government out of decisions about specific medical procedures.

Pete Buttigieg, who has become a media surrogate for the Biden campaign—and quite an effective one at that—addressed this issue in a Fox News town hall when he was on the campaign trail himself. When Chris Wallace asked him directly about late-term abortions, Buttigieg answered Wallace's questions is the best way possible.

"Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy, whether it's at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whenever, that there should be any limit on a woman's right to have an abortion?" Wallace asked.

Keep Reading Show less

When it comes to the topic of race, we all have questions. And sometimes, it honestly can be embarrassing to ask perfectly well-intentioned questions lest someone accuse you of being ignorant, or worse, racist, for simply admitting you don't know the answer.

America has a complicated history with race. For as long as we've been a country, our culture, politics and commerce have been structured in a way to deny our nation's past crimes, minimize the structural and systemic racism that still exists and make the entire discussion one that most people would rather simply not have.

For example, have you ever wondered what's really behind the term Black Pride? Is it an uplifting phrase for the Black community or a divisive term? Most people instinctively put the term "White Pride" in a negative context. Is there such a thing as non-racist, racial pride for white people? And while we're at it, what about Asian people, Native Americans, and so on?

Yes, a lot of people raise these questions with bad intent. But if you've ever genuinely wanted an answer, either for yourself or so that you best know how to handle the question when talking to someone with racist views, writer/director Michael McWhorter put together a short, simple and irrefutable video clip explaining why "White Pride" isn't a real thing, why "Black Pride" is and all the little details in between.


Keep Reading Show less