Many people entering the doors to the Vermilion Forks Elementary School gymnasium last Saturday just stopped for a few seconds, to take in the scene.
“It’s overwhelming,” was a comment heard often throughout the day.
At least 40 pickup trucks full donations to Princeton flood victims were packed tightly into the gym – on tables, under tables, piled up against walls, in bags and in boxes.
There were clothes, bedding, electronics, toys, bake ware, tools, jewelry, pots and pans, books, and much more.
Everything was free, and after 10 hours there was little left over.
“Even the loneliest items that we didn’t think would find a home, the vast majority were able to be a discovered treasure for someone who showed up,” said organizer Rhianfa Riel.
Approximately 500 people attended the giveaway, coming from the Princeton area and from as far away as Penticton and Summerland.
The doors opened at 9 a.m. and by that time there was a lineup and the school parking lot was full. Only 50 people at a time could enter the gym, names and phone numbers were recorded for contact tracing, and masks and sanitizing were required.
The mood was festive, said Riel.
“There was a spirit of camaraderie and joy that permeated the day…We were laughing and joking all day.”
The giveaway was organized after the town received more donations in the aftermath of the flood than it knew what to do with. The Baptist Church took the lead, at the municipality’s request, in organizing emergency response, and eventually had to turn away donations because there was no more room to store them.
“So many generous people just came and dropped things off for us, that we couldn’t even keep track of what we were receiving,” Riel said.
While all the items were free, the church did received $252 in donations, which will go back to flood relief.
“A huge thank you to our volunteers who continue to blow my socks off with how much work they are willing to do at the drop of a hat, and how fast they work and how committed and positive they are.”
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