Farewell to an amazing gem of a city

Over four years ago, as my fiancé and I made the quick decision of moving to Fort McMurray, I never would have thought how emotionally tied I would be to this city. The first year, all I could think of was that the day that I would see Fort McMurray in the rear view mirror couldn’t come fast enough. Now, with such a heavy heart, I can’t imagine my life without all that this beautiful, flourishing city brought me. This big city Vancouver girl was humbled by the eye-opening experiences Fort McMurray offered and will be forever grateful for how this community fuelled (no pun intended) her outlook on life. The thought of reaping the benefits of schooling and financial gains from Fort McMurray are so over shadowed by the life perspective and sense of community my family will foster and promote always.

I write this for the newcomer who doesn’t know where to start, or for the longer established Fort McMurrary-ite who needs an injection of inspiration. Like I said, my first year was really hard and lonely, but the spark that I was very fortunate to stumble across was a job with The United Way of Fort McMurray. I remember seeing the United Way thermometer driving up to Timberlea for the first time as we arrived in Fort McMurray, and thought that the amount raised was very high for a community this size. Well, was I ever astounded as I dived into The United Way and realized how much heart and soul Fort McMurray really has, and I have been addicted to all the opportunities ever since.

In Huffington Post style here is a list of how I was able to capitalize and hopefully add to this amazing gem of a city:

Read Locally

Whether it is social media or one of our fabulous published materials it is so important to read locally. It is easy to only stay tuned to the news from where we came, but it is important to engulf yourself into local current news. YMM Magazine, Snap’d, Connect, Fort McMurray Today, Northword, Shaw cable and so much more are locally written and can inspire you. Also, online sources from Facebook groups to local bloggers are another awesome way to get connected. The community events are endless and the local perspective is critical to finding the truth and honesty of what really goes on here. We all know Fort McMurray has a stigma and I commit to forever being an ambassador. Don’t make people’s opinions of our town justified by being rude back, educate and show them the heart and strength we all have.


I promise this isn’t just the United Way staff member coming out in me, but a genuine appreciation for the possibilities volunteering and helping others does for your spirit.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” said Winston Churchhill.

Investing in where you live creates a stronger bond with your surroundings and breaks down any walls that you may have built.  There are unlimited opportunities with agencies, sports teams, schools and so much more to get involved and feel connected.

You can be an author of your passion

Fort McMurray is the perfect size for any possibility! This growing, youthful, innovative city is the perfect blank slate to start something new. Whether it be a business, group, event, cause or anything your heart desires there is so much POSSIBILITY! This community is hungry for ways to get connected and share interests. I have watched friends start photography businesses, journalism careers, artistic endeavours, markets, book clubs, wine clubs and hit the ground running with success.

Find family in friendships

It is few and far between to find Fort McMurray-ites who are born and raised here. I will forever be grateful for the outreach of hands my lil family has received from others like us wanting to build long-term connections. I feel like I am leaving family members who have showed so much care and love and the bonds will stay strong.

The saying goes don’t look back and move forward, but when it comes to the last four years in Fort McMurray, I totally disagree. I will forever look at this time as the most critical experience in building my family and establishing an outlook on community that will always be in my spirit. As we do that final drive away Friday morning, I will look back in the rear view mirror with a huge smile and tear in my eye knowing that a piece of my heart will forever be in Fort McMurray.

Author: Jaime Dowling

Jaime Dowling is currently the Finance and Database Coordinator with United Way of Fort McMurray and is in the process of completing her bookkeeping certificate with Niagara College. Jaime took a two year hiatus to take care of her little girl and previously was part of the community investment team with United Way. Jaime has been in Fort McMurray for almost five years and says that getting the career opportunities with the United Way family has made the community feel like home. Jaime was born and raised in Vancouver, BC and has twelve years’ experience in the hospitality industry through restaurant management. Jaime has a Liberal Arts degree with Douglas College and Business management with BCIT. When you don’t catch Jaime crunching numbers at United way or supporting the Campaign you will probably find her cooking something new and hanging with her family.