School Community Shows the 'Hastings Way' After Terrible House Fire

On Monday, December 2, a terrible house fire left a Hastings Elementary family destitute. While no one was injured, the family of four lost everything after only recently moving to Vancouver from Montreal.  

"They had nowhere to turn," said Donna Emeno, Hastings Elementary's principal. That's when the school community stepped in to help.

For the next month there was an outpouring of love and support. School staff organized multiple fundraisers including a yogathon (which raised $750 in one day) as well as a bake sale (which raised $360 over recess). Meanwhile parents in the community dropped off cash donations totaling well over $1,700. That weekend, the student's teacher drove the family around to help them look for housing nearby and provided an immediate reference for them.

Over on Hastings Street, restaurants offered meals and businesses collected donations from their customers. Two other VSB schools lent a hand by preparing Christmas hampers.

"What a supportive community!" said Emeno. "The beautiful thing was that the children were very much a part of this community generosity. Two kindergarten students even had a combined birthday party requesting donations to the family instead of gifts."

Emeno also says a big "shout out" needs to go to the Vancouver Police Department. Throughout the traumatic experience, Emeno says the family was supported by two of the most caring officers.

"They came to Hastings to pick up our little student to take him to be with his mom and younger brother. Not only did they comfort this little fellow, it was obvious that they adored him!" she says. "The officers have done several follow up calls at the school to update us and were in touch with media outlets to do outreach for this family."

The result was nothing short of a holiday miracle. Thanks to the VPD's efforts and support from the local media, the family crowd-funded $18,500.

"They absolutely went beyond the call," she says.

Emeno says she would like thank everyone at this time of year for the compassion, caring, empathy, kindness and heartfelt good will. 

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