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Rockhill fire: YWCA issues open letter thanking Yellowknifers

A fire burns at the Rockhill apartment complex on Yellowknife's 54 Avenue
A fire burning at the Rockhill apartment complex on Yellowknife's 54 Avenue is seen from the other side of the neighbouring Fraser Arms housing block. Scott Letkeman/Cabin Radio

The YWCA published an open letter on Monday thanking a range of Yellowknife residents and organizations following last week’s Rockhill fire.

The fire destroyed the YWCA-run Rockhill transitional housing apartment block. Thirty-three families were rehoused across Yellowknife within eight hours of the fire beginning, while tens of thousands of dollars poured in through online donations.

The organization and the families have also received donated furniture, clothes, and offers of new space for the YWCA, which lots its Rockhill-based offices in the fire.

Below is the full text of YWCA President Cherish Winsor’s open letter, as distributed on Monday.



To all Yellowknifers,

For over fifty years, the YWCA NWT has been an essential foundation of support in our community providing affordable childcare, supported transitional housing, shelter from family violence, youth empowerment programs and so much more. While the fire that consumed Rockhill in the early hours of Tuesday morning last week was a devastating blow to our clients and staff, I was heartened to watch the outpouring of support from this community. The donations that flooded in through the online CanadaHelps platform and from local businesses is truly overwhelming and will be an essential component of the relief efforts in the days, weeks and months ahead.

The incredible efforts of the YWCA staff this past week is a reflection of the care, compassion and dedication they bring with them to work every day. While I’m sure recognition is far from their minds right now, I want to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to YWCA NWT Executive Director Lyda Fuller, senior staff Kate Wilson, Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay, Charlotte Henschel, Alayna Ward, and their teams for their work this week and always.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the first responders and emergency personnel, and the GNWT and the City of Yellowknife who helped ensure the safety of our clients and staff. I spent both Tuesday and Wednesday at the Multiplex and then the Fieldhouse and witnessed first-hand the work of all involved to make sure that everyone received the food, clothing, health care, financial support and counselling they required.



Donations of clothing, household goods, services, furniture and time poured in from the
community and we’re still seeing more come in. Moving companies raced across the city to pick up and drop off furniture donations. Benefit concerts, auctions, potlucks and fundraising meals have been held and more are being planned. Office space and rental units have been offered and the list continues. This has truly been a community effort.

As the families resettle into their new homes and start to rebuild their lives with the support of our fantastic staff, our focus turns to the future of our organization and our programs. Our mission to create a safe Northern society for women and families to reach their full potential is at the top of our minds because we recognize the critical need for our services in this community. The support that women and families across Yellowknife and the NWT have come to count on will always be here, and we ask for your patience and your support as we rebuild.

Yellowknife, you are amazing. On behalf of the staff, board and clients of the YWCA NWT, thank you.


Cherish Winsor
YWCA NWT Board President