Elijah Mack-Stirling was one of thousands evacuated on Nov. 15 when an unprecedented downpour led to flooding in Merritt and other B.C. locales, shutting down highways and damaging or destroying homes and businesses.
Evacuees ended up in Kamloops, Kelowna, Salmon Arm and Logan Lake, and many encountered struggles using the government’s Emergency Support Services program. In the interim, residents of all nearby communities stepped up to help and, even though he was also an evacuee, Mack-Stirling was among those lending a hand.
As owner of the Merritt location of the Kekuli Cafe (a Kamloops location will open soon), Mack-Stirling put his food skills to good use.
He had his own struggles with the system. The restaurateur said he didn’t see any help from ESS until seven days after being evacuated. At that point, he had already booked a hotel, where he and his family were staying.
“Me and my family kind of crammed into one room. There were five of us,” he said.
Mack-Stirling said there were hundreds of other residents of Merritt going through the same experience, but many without the same support network he had. He said that led to a kind of survivors’ guilt and he sees his own experience as easier than many others’.
Once he was able to do so, Mack-Stirling put the word out for help with space for food prep. He said a number of places reached out to help him support the community, including the Kamloops Alliance Church and Kamloops United Church.
Giving back is nothing new for Stirling-Mack, who has done this sort of work in several other communities, including on Vancouver Island, other Interior cities and in Bella Coola, where he gave back to his home nation, the Nuxalk.
In the fallout from the floods, Mack-Stirling estimates he prepped at least 200 sandwiches, the ingredients for which he paid for himself, and used donated ingredients to make soups and chilis. The sandwiches were then dropped off at hotels across the city, which were filled with evacuees, many of whom were still waiting for support.
For more information on Mack-Stirling’s Kekuli Cafe in Kamloops, visit the page on Facebook.