That’s what Laurie Hankinson calls the strangers who assembled in a heartbeat to help the evacuees of last week’s Citadel Mews fire by offering comfort in the simplest and best way possible: they brought blankets.
Now, Hankinson and many other family members of those same Citadel residents are hoping to return these items. Some of these blankets are quite likely heirloom objects that should go back to their families, she said.
At the very least, she hopes to say thanks in person.
“To these people that were just the bystanders who just raced into help, I just find that remarkable. And blankets, everybody bringing blankets from their home and just handing them out to these poor seniors,” she recounted.
“Mom was in a hospital gown. She was covered up with somebody else's blanket, and one was hers. The other one, I don't know where it came from and it helped keep her warm until they got her to her new place.”
Two days after the fire, Hankinson posted on the Facebook page for The Community of St. Albert offering thanks to whoever put a beautiful, brand new crocheted blanket on her 90-year-old mother to help keep her warm. She figured the stranger must want it back.
Her mother is frail, she explained, and Hankinson and her family were told not to go during the fire, as that would have added to the chaos. “We had no idea that our family members had been evacuated.”
In her stead was a swarm of Good Samaritans who were passing by or who had businesses in the area. They came forward to help in whatever way they could, some even helping to get residents out of the building so firefighters could focus on getting the blaze under control.
Dr. Melonie MacDonald of Citadel Dental said other clinic staff brought forth dozens of blankets, some of which were definitely treasured objects passed down through their families. MacDonald herself was biking in the river valley at the time her staff called, advising her that help was needed.
“My whole staff showed up with blankets, just helping out any way they could,” she said. “I think three of the girls did go home even in between and get more blankets. I think I gave out probably six or seven that I had here in the office.”
In the caring spirit of health-care professionals, no matter their stripe, the team at Citadel Dental was happy to be there in whatever way they could help. They gave the blankets out of their antique wooden chests and old steamer trunks … and they gave them with love.
“I've spoken to all the girls about all our blankets, even Suzy who had the crocheted handmade blankets from her mom. Our feeling is we gave them to people who needed them and we want them to have them. We're not interested in trying to get her blankets back. We just were interested in comforting people that needed help at the time. They need more things than we do right now,” said MacDonald.
That won’t stop people such as Hankinson from trying to find the owner of mom's borrowed blanket. After her social media post, dozens of others came forward to tell their stories of how strangers and blankets came together on that fateful night to keep everyone safe and comforted. Their stories all say thanks and many have pictures of blankets they hope to return to their owners.
In another post on The ORIGINAL St. Albert Chat page on Facebook, Donna Lee Entrup Wilson expressed her gratitude at the care given to her mother.
"She was lovingly handed over to us wrapped in a flannel sheet and a cozy blanket. I don’t know where these came from or who I should return them to," she said.
"As a family, we would also like to thank everyone who took part in rescuing, evacuating, and caring for all the residents, all those who have made donations, or put in many long and hard hours gathering or sorting supplies, and the many businesses who have offered support. Your care for our family members is so overwhelming and so greatly appreciated. I am so proud to live in this community and we are grateful to each and every one of you," Entrup Wilson said.
Hankinson remains hopeful she gets the chance to say thanks in person. On a night when things could have ended up so much worse, even her frail mother came through the ordeal with nary a scratch.
“She's in perfect condition. She's 90, and yet she's back in her room like nothing ever happened. Perfectly fine… 100 per cent. It’s remarkable,” she said, adding the fire created a situation where her mother left her bed for the first time in months.
“For all of this to have happened, and for her to be back in the same place in a week and no worse really for wear and tear is really, really remarkable, I think… just absolutely amazing. This community is just amazing to me that they did this. I'm not really sure that they feel like they got the recognition they deserve because that was an amazing thing that they did, I think. I was calling them ‘blanket heroes.’ It may not seem like a big thing to the person that had two blankets, but I can tell you, it was huge," said Harkinson.
"Mom didn't have anybody there other than the staff. We weren't … none of us were there. We didn't know and she has no way… she's so helpless. She can't move, she can't speak up, she couldn't call for help … there was nothing she can do. For someone to come along and offer a blanket and sit with them and comfort them while all this chaos is going on around them … it’s just really truly remarkable that people would do that."