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Local business owners teaming up for Australia fire relief

Cause hits close to home for Lauren McEachern; 'As someone who’s gone through a similar experience, it’s painful to see'

Lauren McEachern remembers the support she received when her family had to flee a wildfire in Alberta, and now she wants to help those experiencing a similar situation in Australia.

McEachern, who owns the Fifty Acre Garden in Oro-Medonte, and Melanie Robinson, owner of Eclectic Café in Orillia, are partnering to raise money for Australian fire relief.

McEachern’s family had to evacuate Fort McMurray in 2016, and the current fires in Australia bring back difficult memories.

“I still don’t look at the pictures. I know what’s happening, but I’ve been intentionally avoiding the pictures,” she said. “As someone who’s gone through a similar experience, it’s painful to see. I know the fear — not knowing if people are safe, not knowing if you’ll have a home.”

What stood out to McEachern was the support she and her husband, Gordon, and son, Wyatt, received while they were displaced.

“We had a lot of family and friends step up to stand behind us, and the Red Cross helped us as well,” she said, noting they were able to receive emergency funding.

As the fires continued to burn in Australia, she decided it was time to give back to the Red Cross.

A fundraiser will be held Feb. 1 at Eclectic Café on Mississaga Street West. The business will be open regular hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., during which people can stop in and make a donation, purchase cookies donated by Sweet Time Bake Shoppe and bid on silent-auction items.

Eclectic Café will reopen from 6 to 8 p.m., when there will be appetizers, music and a greater selection of silent-auction items donated by local businesses.

All of the money raised will go toward the Red Cross’s fire-relief efforts in Australia.

“I’m really grateful to see so many people who, even though they’re running their own small businesses, are willing to step up and help. It’s awesome to see the selflessness out there,” McEachern said. “We’re lucky to live in a place where people really care.”

Tax receipts will be issued for donations of more than $20. Those who aren’t able to attend the fundraiser can still donate here.

More information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.