Though their home of 12 years is gutted and they do not know when or how long it will take to rebuild, one thing they have been overwhelmed by is the response from the community and emergency officials attending to their incident.
For Michele and Alexis Shemluk, Jan. 29 is a day where their things burned but one where the community came out to smother away the loss of their possessions.
Shortly after 1:30 a.m., a fire broke out in their home on Landon Crescent in Spruce Grove. Alexis was away for the evening and Michele was the first to discover the blaze. According to the mother of two, much of the night was confusing and at first, played out like any other she had experienced in her life.
“I did some cooking, cleaned, watched television and went to sleep,” she said. “I sensed something was wrong when the smoke detectors went off. I went downstairs, saw the flames and went back up to get my phone to call the fire department. They told me a neighbour had noticed and had already called them.”
Michele made it out of the house with the clothes on her back and her phone. She does not remember much of the night and, like many, initially tried to get some personal effects from the family home. An urn was the primary target, everything else, according to her, was really just stuff that could be replaced in due time.
“Every picture, every baby picture, every memory, it is all gone,” Michele Shemluk said. “When you get to a certain age, you accumulate stuff. But at the end of the day, we are alive. It is just stuff, few things have more value and meaning.”
Since the fire, Michele and daughter Alexis have been staying with son and brother Jesse. Though their home of 12 years is gutted and they do not know when or how long it will take to rebuild, one thing they have been overwhelmed by is the response from the community and emergency officials attending to their incident.
They were so moved, they even purchased goods for police and firefighters.
“We really want to thank the RCMP and fire department,” Alexis Shemluk said. “So, we went to and got coffee and cookies for the fire station and the RCMP. The way people have reached out to us is really incredible.”
Within the Tri-Region, a GoFundMe also exists for the mother and daughter. Set up by a friend, it has raised over $5,585 of its $5,000 goal as of press time and attracted support from individuals whom neither mother or daughter know. They have been checking it now and then and Michele think it is a karmic response.
“What you put out comes back and it restores faith,” she said. “We are kind of giving people, around Christmas a lady could not pay groceries so I said ‘Merry Christmas’ and covered the $50. It is what you do as human beings I think.”
Neighbor and friend Chantal Jackson founded the campaign. For her, creating the platform was the best way to help Michele and Alexis in their time of need.
“I think it was just about wanting to rally around Michele and knowing the extent of the damage [to the house] right from the start, helping them financially was important,” she said. “We let them know they are supported and cared about.”
Their home was insured, the cause is under investigation and the pair are soldiering on through the recovery process. For Michele, and Alexis, who is in nursing and already volunteers at Ronald McDonald House, the experience has been traumatic, but has inspired them to give back even more in the future once they are settled.
“I am looking to do a little more charitable work,” Michele Shemluk said. “I have not even thought of where, but the reaction has been amazing. It is really overwhelming to see the kindness of others.”
Michele and Alexis Shemluk have a GoFundMe link at gofundme.com/shemluk-family-fire-recovery and gift cards and other contributions can be dropped off at Perk’s Coffee House. They intend to rebuild the dwelling that they initially built.