Loonies for Loggers to help forestry families recovering after end of eight-month strike

Until the forestry sector on Vancouver Island rebounds from an eight-month strike, a charitable group that provides food and assistance to struggling forestry families will carry on.

“They are proud but you can’t eat pride,” said Rona Doucette of Woss.

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“They are going to be in a financial bind until they return to work.”

The protracted dispute between Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 was settled this month. On the coast, the strike sidelined more than 5,000 workers. It will be weeks before logging and production will be up and running.

In addition, both the Coast and Interior industries have been dealing with depressed markets, low timber prices, the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., high government fees [stumpage rates] and timber-supply issues.

Loonies for Loggers organizers Doucette and Tamara Meggitt have built relationships with people struggling in central and north Island communities affected by the strike. From that they know the need continues. Families who wouldn’t come out initially are now seeking help.

“You have to eat,” said Doucette.

“And if you can save a couple of dollars with us providing food, go to your local coffee shop and have a coffee with friends, that way you are also supporting local businesses,” she said. “There’s a trickle-down effect. Everybody is affected.”

Doucette was emotional as she described the loggers: “You couldn’t ask for a better group of people. They are the first ones, if there is a need, they will literally give you the shirts off their backs.”

Loonies for Loggers will continue collecting donations for food deliveries to the hardest hit communities in central and north Vancouver Island until June 1. The organizers then plan to take a month-long break.

“On July 1, we’ll be re-inventing our selves as Loonies for Loggers 2.0,” said Doucette. “We are going to be looking at supporting the loggers in other aspects.”

At its height, the charity raised more than $150,000 but that has been spent on food and Christmas hampers. A little more than $10,000 remains, said Doucette.

For more information, go to looniesforloggers.com or call 250-897-2823.

charnett@timescolonist.com

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