Fire evacuee helps others from safety of Osoyoos hotel

A Williams Lake mom is making the most of her stay in Osoyoos while she and her family await the all-clear to return to their wildfire-threatened home.

Courtney Vreeman piled into the family vehicle her two toddlers, the family dog and as much of her small business equipment as she could manage  — first for a quick rush to Prince George on July 9 and then to the Okanagan a few days later.

“I run a small business in Williams Lake out of my home,” said Courtney. “I create custom shirts, wine glasses, water bottles and wood signs.

“I’ve been in business two years. The support of my home town has been amazing and I’m honoured to be a part of such a great community.”

Some might wonder why a wildfire evacuee would continue to work after being chased from her home.

Courtney says she didn’t want to be a burden on an overwhelmed provincial emergency care system.

And she wanted to help others.

“I knew I wanted to help a family in need, but could only do so much,” she explained. “I could sit on my butt and collect EI, or I could work and feed my children and help a family in need.”

So Courtney unpacked, turned her hotel room into a makeshift factory and came up with a line of marketable BC Strong products.

The monikered shirts, decals and even a water/wine bottle now sell online. Courtney has raised enough to cover her own expenses and also contribute more than $600 to a family that has lost its home in Williams Lake.

“The day I evacuated, I started printing them,” she said.

Her charity comes despite a less-than-charitable act at the hands of another.

“We spent a few days in Vernon but were told we needed to leave the hotel because other guests were coming in,” she recalled. “While we were parked at the hotel, someone tried to steal our truck filled with our possessions.

“They broke the lock and cracked the door handle. Thank goodness the alarm scared them off.”

Courtney and her husband Clay Bremner were able to find hotel space in Osoyoos and made a beeline for the South Okanagan.

“If we aren’t able to return home after (two weeks) we’ll have to figure out where we go from there.”

In the meantime, it’s business as usual for Courtney.

“Yep, two toddlers, husband, dog, equipment and everything we were able to fit in our vehicle.

“I plan to work as long as I can.”

Interested in helping Courtney with her charitable work? Visit her Facebook page to learn more.