November 23, 2022

Ukrainian refugee shelter project receives strong support from Algoma: Organizer

Project manager Vic Fremlin says everything from used clothes and beds to newcomer transport deals have been showcased

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Helping hands and generous offers of goods big and small have been directed to Vic Fremlin since the area business owner announced he was ready to provide a recently purchased property to house Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

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Everything from used clothes and beds to transportation deals from newcomers were thrown in its path. Two local women even provided copies of the original plans for the former Bruce Mines school in question, which would prove invaluable if bricks and mortar had to be moved for renovations.

“The community has been great,” said Fremlin, who in late March told the Sault Star how he originally purchased the former Arthur C. Henderson Public School, declared surplus in June 2021 and recently sold, for business purposes. . Given what has been happening in Ukraine for almost two months now and with so many people wanting to move to safer ports, the owner of Lock City Dairies said he thinks the old school could breathe new life, serving as temporary accommodation for those who escape. the European nation of the city of war.

Offers of help came from across Algoma, from church groups donating used clothing and retirees willing to provide any transportation needed.

“They’ll get people where they need to go,” Fremlin said in an interview Tuesday. “They just want something to do. They are retired and they want to help.

“It’s a wide range of people who want to help with everything.”

A curious suggestion came from two women whose father was a draftsman during the later construction of the school in Algoma, originally opened in 1917 but destroyed by fire in 1945. A new building opened that year. Additions followed in 1954 and 1968.

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“It was kind of nice to see, people digging into some of their old stuff,” Fremlin said. “They said, ‘You’re going to need (draughts) if you’re going to start digging and putting showers or something like that. “”

Fremlin has no plans to release pipe wrenches until he has a concrete commitment. Refugees are coming through here and the old school can indeed be used.

Things are moving on the federal front with regard to the entry of Ukrainian refugees into Canada.

Settlement agencies across the country have joined forces to support Ukrainians arriving through a federal emergency program at three airports, Canada’s immigration minister said late last week. Sean Fraser said 41,000 people had been approved under an emergency travel effort launched last month to help people resettle after many fled to Europe to escape war in the Russia versus Ukraine. They have been arriving at Toronto and Edmonton international airports since April 1 and Vancouver since April 8. Fraser said most applicants are now in Warsaw or Berlin and many may temporarily settle in Canada while they access services such as language training, childcare and research assistance. employment.

Fremlin said he contacted Sault Ste. The office of Deputy Marie Terry Sheehan, who confirmed to the Sault Star that the file regarding the Fremlin pitch is being worked on.

Fremlin insists that with official help and elbow grease that he and others can provide, the old school could soon be in ship shape to take in refugees. About 200, he estimates.

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The structure, as it stands, is habitable and is zoned residential, Fremlin said. Features such as large bathrooms, kitchens and laundry facilities are in place and not much will need to be done.

However, he said he would like to add a few comfort features before anyone moves in.

“They could go there… It’s heated and everything,” Fremlin said. “There is water there and the toilets work, but I would like to build showers.

“But I don’t want to do it until I get permission. I don’t want to waste my time and money.

Original business intentions, including building apartments or condos, leasing storage space, and having the gym serve as a rental area for sporting or social events, are on the back burner.

At present, the main intention is to return the refugees safely to the old school.

“People feel for people,” Fremlin said. “The majority of people there, they put themselves in other people’s shoes and they recognize, ‘That could be us,’ or ‘What would I like to do?’ The way I think is, ‘What can I do?’ I have this great school. And, yeah, I can make it into apartment buildings or condos, but I don’t have to do it right now. If I can help these people get here…”

The dairy owner said many of the Ukrainian refugees likely shared his rural roots and interests.

“We always need good people and Ukrainians are hard working people,” Fremlin said. “Nothing better than having a group of farmers. I said, ‘Well, I’m in this boat.’ Maybe I’ll hire three or four at the same time.

– with files from The Canadian Press

[email protected]

On Twitter: @JeffreyOugler

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