Fire Recovery funds at work in community

It has been two months since Commonwealth Stadium hosted the Fire Aid for Fort McMurray Concert. In that short amount of time, over 29-percent of the funds that have been received from that event and the total amount pledged through the United for Fort McMurray campaign, have been invested, committed or requested.

“Our current Fire Recovery fund is currently sitting at $3.25 million, which is amazing,” said Tony Mankowski, President of The United Way of Fort McMurray Board of Directors. “It is a testament to the support we have received, but it’s also important to recognize that these funds don’t come in all at once. They come in over a period of time. We’ve been very fortunate, as we’ve collected just over half of that: $1.74 million.”

Mankowski went on to explain that the focus of Fire Recovery funding is on short term initiatives, like several undertaken at the Fort McMurray Boys and Girls Club.

“They provided counselling services for kids, as well, they opened up their facilities to all kids from 1 to 17 at no or minimal cost to give them activities in this particular summer, given that many of their normal activities were not available,” he said.

Funds have also been committed to St. Aidan’s Society to support their senior’s outreach program.

“Many times some of the seniors don’t have the same support systems from their families, if they’re no longer living here, as others do,” he shared. “It was a critical component (to the recovery process).”

The Fire Recovery Fund and the regular Community Fund are two different streams that will be managed independently and separately.

“We have a fairly rigorous process on how we evaluate funding requests,” said Mankowski on the August 23rd edition of IMPACT, heard on KAOS 91.1. “We have a community investment committee that assesses the requests, the needs, the efficiency of the organization, before we forward the dollars. That committee has been split, with one group focusing on the fire recovery funds and the other on the normal, ongoing community fund. They are using similar processes, but they are two distinct groups of people.”

“Who is eligible to apply for Fire Recovery Funding?” is a common question that we receive at the United Way. Essentially, any charitable agency doing work in the community can apply. That application form is now available online and can be downloaded by clicking here.

“(This Fire Recovery funding) is for any agency in the community that can fill a need that has been identified,” said Mankowski. “It’s different than our community fund; it’s much broader. In many cases, it will even address needs that are not normally under our standard pillars of support. These are short term focus areas that are needed to be addressed.”

“They may not be long term, sustainable concerns,” continued Mankowski. “That is the biggest difference with the Fire Recovery Fund. It’s about additional needs in the community associated with the impact of the fire. Many of them are short-term. In other words, they’re not going to be here three years from now. They are definitely here today and they’re definitely going to be here six months from now.”

Mankowski went on to explain that the Fire Recovery Fund is not only intended to support recovery from fire impacts and new programs designed to help the community, but also to supplement existing programs that have seen an increased demand.

“Even initiatives that we’ve done in the past that have suddenly grown dramatically in scope and size, the incremental can be under the Fire Recovery banner,” said Mankowski. “An example would be Tools for School. We have been supporting this program for many years. This year, the level of support required is dramatically larger than at any time in the past. Clearly, this is an outcome of the fire.”

The United Way is working exceptionally well with our partners at the Canadian Red Cross and other community based organizations.

“I have to commend the agencies in our community,” said Mankowski. “They have been amazing in terms of showing resilience. The staff in those organizations and their volunteers have exemplified the dedication they have to the work that they do.”


Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online ( and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.