The building that housed the West Island Assistance Fund office and thrift shop in Roxboro is a total loss following a devastating fire, Monday.
“The firefighters advised us that it should be knocked down and rebuilt completely,” WIAF board president Michael Labelle said, Tuesday. “All that remains is a pile of rubble and twisted metal.”
Labelle said the immediate priority is to contact the fund’s insurance carrier and Bell Canada.
“Our telephone line is down, so we need to set up a new line at the food depot,” he said. “I’m sitting in the food depot right now. This will become our temporary administration office.”
Labelle said they don’t yet know the cause of the fire which broke out late Monday morning. One bit of good news was that the firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze briefly, just long enough for Labelle to enter the office and grab important documents, including the insurance file. All other files were destroyed, but Labelle said there are backup files they can access.
Following Labelle’s quick document grab, the fire flared up again. He said firefighters were still battling the flames when he left at the scene at 7:30 p.m.
Because the WIAF food depot is located elsewhere, the food portion of Christmas basket program is ready to go.
“The food depot was not affected. We don’t need food,” Labelle said. “So we are asking people not to bring food donations that could be used by another food bank.”
However, the toys to be distributed with the food baskets were destroyed in the fire, which has prompted an emergency toy drive.
Sophie McCann, executive director for West Island Community Shares, said three locations are open for people to drop off new toys, suitable for children six years old and younger.
They are: The WIAF food depot, 21, rue du Centre Commercial in Roxboro (Mon. to Fri. from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), CEGEP Gérald-Godin, 15615 Gouin Blvd., Ste-Geneviève, (8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily) and West Island Community Shares, 610 St-Jean Blvd., Pointe-Claire (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. to Fri.)
The list of suggested items: education games; puzzles, English and French books; crayons; crafts and Lego and Playmobil sets. No electronics and no toys with batteries. The gifts should be delivered unwrapped.
Labelle said they are setting up a reconstruction fund to be used to either completely rebuild, or to finance a move to another location.
“We lost our thrift shop, which represents half of our income,” he said. “So we are encouraging people who want to help to go to our website and donate.”
Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor Jim Beis said the immediate priority was to provide families in need with the holiday basket and gifts, but that helping WIAF re-establish the thrift shop is the next big need.
“We will look for ways to facilitate the process,” the borough mayor said. “For example, we can make sure they receive the necessary permits in a reasonable time.”
It’s the second time this year that the outreach organization has been hit with bad luck. In March, vandals climbed up a fire escape at the back of the building and smashed a kitchen window to access the second-floor administration offices. They left a colossal mess and damaged valuable equipment.
In 2015, the charity was burgled three times in six months. The thief turned out to be a client of the WIAF food bank.
To donate to the West Island Assistance Fund reconstruction fund, visit www.fdoi.org.