Organizer disappointed with response to GoFundMe to help people displaced by fire

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Mark Lundbek, the organizer of a GoFundMe initiative for Mackenzie Place residents displaced by a March 15 fire, is disappointed by the community's response to the fundraising effort. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Mark Lundbek, the organizer of a GoFundMe initiative for Mackenzie Place residents displaced by a March 15 fire, is disappointed by the community’s response to the fundraising effort.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Mark Lundbek, the creator of a GoFundMe page on the Internet to raise money for people displaced by the Mackenzie Place highrise fire, is disappointed by the response from the community.

Lundbek said some people are not donating to the GoFundMe effort because of a “stigma” surrounding the highrise.

“A lot of people feel that, if they’re going to throw money into a GoFundMe, they don’t want it to end up in the hands of drug dealers or drug abusers – stuff that’s going to get flushed down the toilet rather than bought items that they need, like food, clothing, etc.,” he said.

However, he explained the money will be distributed as gift cards to specific people and they would have to be present at the time of purchases.

“So there’s no way they can sell them off or anything like that,” he said.

As of April 14, the GoFundMe initiative had raised $1,920 in 22 days. That came from nine people, including a $1,000 donation from a Hay River businessperson.

The goal is $25,000.

Lundbek launched the effort as station manager of community radio CKHR, which is located in the highrise.

Since then, he said people have asked him a lot of questions about the GoFundMe initiative.

“They’re like, ‘Where’s this cash going? How’s it being handed out?'” he said. “What we tell them is it’s all being handled through St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. So CKHR has no hands on the money. The Hay River Broadcasting Society has no hands on the money. As the organizer of the GoFundMe, I have no hands on the money. I can’t touch it.”

Lundbek also defended residents of the highrise from the negative opinions of some people.

“They don’t see that there’s good people in there, hard-working people in there, families in there that have been trying to build a life,” he said. “All they see is the bad things in the highrise. And it’s really, really hard not to see that because it’s been so prominent in the news with murders, suicides, violence and stuff like that.”

Lundbek recognized that many residents of Hay River helped the people displaced by the March 15 fire with donations of things like clothes and toiletries.

Rev. Francis Delaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church did not share in Lundbek’s criticism of the response to the GoFundMe initiative.

“That’s not St. Andrew’s opinion,” he said.

Instead, Delaplain said, “We encourage people to give, we commit to spending the money well, and we would not want to paint people in that light.”

A fundraising dance and auction at the Royal Canadian Legion earlier this month raised $5,700 to help the estimated 125 people displaced by the highrise fire.

Except for brief access times to recover their belongings, the tenants of the highrise have not been able to return to their apartments since the fire.

The owner of the 16-storey building, Satdeo Inc., has said it plans to repair the property and reopen it in a couple of months.

There was no insurance on the building.

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