More than $51,000 will be going to help evacuees of the Paddington Station apartment fire, thanks to the generous donors who attended the Giving Back Christmas to Paddington Station concert on Tuesday afternoon.
And that number could grow even higher, with donations still coming in.
For something that came together in less than a week, organizer Karen Lee Batten says the the event was more successful than she could ever imagine.
“I find that this whole experience has been super overwhelming, in a good way,” Batten told the Times.
“It’s pretty incredible. All of the volunteers that came out, everyone that gave their time. Every single moving part in this room is a volunteer’s set of hands, and that’s incredible. We have more silent auction items than we know what to do with. And every single penny will be going back to these families.
“So I just feel super blessed, super overwhelmed and just very humbled by how many people rallied behind the idea and how Langley really does care. And that’s the hashtag that we’re using, #LangleyCares. They really do, and this just goes to show you that.”
There were more than a dozen performers onstage including Batten, Chad Brownlee, Rollin Train Wreck (pictured below), The Vitality Dance Company, Robyn & Ryleigh, Mark Donnelly and more.
One musician, Emily Taylor Adams, lives in the second Paddington Station apartment building that did not burn down, and sang an emotional song she wrote just for the people of Paddington.
“They’re (the Paddington residents) in need right now, and they’re here, and they heard about it, and they’re coming out, and they’re getting the help, and people are breaking down, and they are crying and the volunteers are there to hug them,” Batten said.
“I don’t even know what to think. There really are no words.”
Donna Moore, a member of the Paddington strata council, says the outreach from the community has been overwhelmingly generous.
Just the other evening they opened up the doors at 5660 201A St. — the second building that did not burn — for refreshments and conversation between all residents.
“Instead of all the tears of the first day when we were sitting outside watching the fire burn — everybody was crying, they were in their pyjamas, they lost everything — all the people were crying, (but) nobody about the fire anymore. They were just crying because they were so grateful because people keep reaching out to them all the time. It’s just been amazing.
“And the Langley firefighters are second-to-none. They were amazing through all of this, really, really good. So, you know, it’s like a Christmas miracle. Everybody is just so thankful and so happy.”
Paddington Station has faced many challenges since it was built in 2009, from mail theft and break-ins, to people sleeping in doorways outside. But over the last two years, the strata council members have been working hard to make their condo building a true community.
Just this past summer they hired a new management company and an on-site caretaker, started the Paddington Socials Facebook Page, built a craft room for kids in the building to use and created a free library.
And now, that spirit of community is stronger than ever, said Donna Francis, strata council president.
“To me, this is Christ mass,” she said.
“People say, ‘Oh this is what Christmas is about.’ This is what it’s about, right. Because it takes away from the commercial aspect, and then it moves it back to the people aspect. It’s people loving people. And I think that, for us, the fire, it really didn’t stop the community — it built the community. From out of the ashes it really built the spirit.”
The strata council has started a new Facebook group “Paddington Fire Exchange” as a place where donors and evacuees can connect. Those wanting to help the residents are encouraged to join the group and post, so the residents seeking help can reply directly.