A Hercules aircraft departing Hay River on an evacuation flight. Photo: Town of Hay River
Gift cards? Nearly $700,000. Help with pets? Almost $100,000. Personal hygiene and laundry? More than $80,000.
United Way NWT on Thursday published a webpage explaining more about how donations worth millions of dollars are being used to help residents affected by wildfires and evacuations.
The charity has been a hub for donations throughout the summer, used by the NWT government and others as a central clearing-house to take in money and redirect it to communities, Indigenous governments and various non-profits, who then pass it on to residents in need.
Rarely, if ever do residents access cash directly from United Way NWT. Instead, United Way – which says it usually operates with one part-time contractor – acts as a middle man supporting other agencies who are the front-line providers.
That means it can be hard to immediately know exactly who or how United Way is helping.
The charity says a full organization-by-organization list of funding recipients won’t be available until March next year. In the meantime, the webpage publicized on Thursday sets out various broad areas in which money was used.
United Way NWT says it has received just over $2.6 million in donations since the 2023 wildfire season began. Of that, the charity says around $460,000 was distributed between May and July, then more than $1.3 million was given out from August onward.
The remaining 30 percent of the $2.6 million received is being held back on the basis that “communities will continue to have a need for financial support for a while,” the charity stated.
Of the overall $1.8 million distributed, around 45 percent was given to South Slave groups, United Way NWT said in a Thursday press release. Yellowknife groups received 27 percent, with other North Slave groups – including those helping Tłı̨chǫ communities – receiving 25 percent.
The charity gave the following examples of how funding was used:
$370,000 – grocery gift cards at Alberta evacuation centres and from community groups
$360,000 – direct aid, in other words funding for groups to provide cash payments directly to evacuees in need
$310,000 – funding for Indigenous governments and community groups to feed evacuees
$165,000 – fuel gift cards at evacuation centres
$160,000 – other gift cards at evacuation centres
$95,000 – support for groups in the NWT and Alberta to help care for pets
$80,000 – support for groups specifically helping families and young children
$80,000 – funds for personal hygiene supplies, laundry services or similar
$65,000 – funding related to youth evacuees
$65,000 – funding to help with ground transportation
$50,000 – support for services directed at vulnerable populations
$45,000 – initiatives to address evacuees’ cultural and mental health needs
“United Way NWT is looking to distribute the remaining 30 percent to projects and organizations working on wildfire recovery,” the charity stated in its press release, adding that requests are still coming in from groups “affected by wildfires at various stages this season.”
CRA-certified non-profits, charities, community governments and First Nation governments can apply online. “Requests from organizations who supported evacuees anytime in the 2023 wildfire season are still welcomed,” United Way NWT stated.