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Slave Lake relief inspires 'Summer of Gnomes'

Families are trolling for garden gnomes this summer as part of a group's effort to start up a non-profit society.

Families are trolling for garden gnomes this summer as part of a group's effort to start up a non-profit society.ìWe take them to a family-friendly place and leave a hint of where it is on our Facebook page,î said Jo Dumont of Jo Dumont Fitness Training, a club based in Red Deer. The club is starting a non-profit society for displaced families and has started the ìSummer of Gnomesî as a way to raise money. Instructions are left on the back of the gnome so anyone who wants to can move it to another public place and leave another note.ìWe have no control over them once they're gone, which is tough for us because they're awfully cute.îOf the 40 gnomes that have been purchased, Gnome Land Security ñ the group of 20 volunteers ñ only knows where 16 are. People have been taking them on vacation with them and photos of the gnomes have been showing up around Red Deer, Innisfail, Blackfalds and Penhold, and as far as Saskatchewan and B.C.The fundraiser was motivated when Dumont and employees at her gym in Red Deer started collecting supplies for relief efforts in Slave Lake.ìWhen the fires happened our intent was to have a fundraiser with the gym. We had only 35 members but it turned out to be all of Central Alberta bringing stuff to our gym,î Dumont said, crediting social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook for getting the word out and bringing in 350 volunteers.ìOur gym was shut down and we sorted and sent. Sorted and sent,î Dumont said of the overwhelming amount of supplies that came in.She said people from Slave Lake were coming in to ask for basic items they weren't able to get from other traditional sources and that motivated her to start up a non-profit society ñ JDFT Strong.ìWe want to be that link when families are displaced so immediate resources is our goal,î she said.The goal is to raise money by asking families to purchase the gnomes for $25 or businesses for $100.ìWe wanted to be able to include families in it and to show kids how one action can spread out a really long way. By buying their gnomes and being able to follow them in the city Ö they can see how far just their action of naming a gnome actually goes.îSo far 40 gnomes have been purchased but in total 160 have been cast by Linda Sirr, shop owner of Ceramic Impressions, located in Didsbury.ìI thought it was a really neat idea,î Sirr said from inside her shop, filled with rows of moulds, paints and finished projects.Sirr was asked in June to be part of the project. She agreed to make about 20 a week and ship them to Red Deer.ìIt's for a good cause, so why not help out?î said Sirr, leaning over in her chair and scraping mould lines away from the sleeves and boots of the gnomes. She said typically cleaning up the figures before putting them in the oven takes her a half hour, but since working on the same gnomes all month, she's shaved her time down by half.The gnomes, some standing and others sitting, are sent up to the club in Red Deer where volunteers paint the figures. A few have been made into specialty gnomes such as Dumbledore from Harry Potter and Spider-Man, which were sold during a silent auction last week.The event runs until Sept. 6. More information on the ìSummer of Gnomesî can be found at