A family that recently moved to the Creston Valley is expressing their gratefulness for the generosity of their newfound community.
Stephanie and Richard Howes bought their new home in September and began planning their move from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.
After three months of keeping their life in boxes, they made their journey to the Kootenays with their one-year-old daughter Cadence.
While staying at a motel in Grand Forks on Saturday, Jan. 22, the family hit an unexpected bump in the road when their truck and trailer was stolen from the parking lot.
Richard went outside in the morning to carry some bags to the truck, but it was nowhere to be found. The 18-foot trailer with all of their worldly possessions packed inside was missing.
“It was everything we owned,” said Stephanie Howes. “All we had was an overnight bag and my daughter’s sleeping things. Besides that, even my husband’s wallet and passport was in the truck, just everything. It felt very surreal.”
They quickly began making calls to local towing companies and the police to locate the truck, but weren’t given much hope.
“The RCMP said that unfortunately this happens and stolen things are often not recovered,” Howes said. “But then we had a notification pop up on my phone that one of our credit cards was being used.”
Not long after, a second notification came up that another purchase had been made. The RCMP followed from store to store until they found one of the culprits.
“I think we’re really lucky that these people weren’t very smart, because they used the card three times in the same 100-foot radius,” said Howes. “So, that was how the RCMP were able to track them down.”
A 41-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of fraud and possession of the stolen credit cards. She wasn’t driving the truck and trailer, so the RCMP questioned her for more information on its location. Two other suspects are believed to be involved, but no further arrests have been made.
“Our friends who live in Creston picked us up and drove us to our house,” said Howes. “And at that point, we still had no idea whether or not we were going to get anything back. We were moving into the house with nothing.”
She posted to the local buy and sell group on Facebook asking for essential items like kitchen dishes and bedding just to get them by. Their realtor, Annette Sawall of Fair Realty, also put a message out to the community about the family’s situation and donations began pouring in.
When the Howes walked in for the first time on Saturday evening, they we shocked to find furnishings set up for a fully functional home.
Community members had come by and dropped off a bed, sheets and blankets, a crib for Cadence, and even beer and food for the fridge.
“We are so thankful to everybody. People were just driving by every few minutes stop by and keep giving us stuff,” Howes said. “And honestly, we were so devastated at first to have everything stolen, but then we showed up to a house that already felt like we could live in it. And I didn’t care anymore if we got everything back. I felt like it was going to be okay because all of these people cared about us so much, and we hadn’t even met them ever.”
Luckily, that night they received a call that the truck and trailer had been recovered, but the RCMP couldn’t provide any information on whether their belongings were still inside.
The next day, the Howes drove back to Grand Forks to pick it up, and they could see that the trailer’s door had been pried open.
“When we opened it, some stuff had been tossed around and it was hard to say what exactly was missing,” said Howes. “But I started crying because I didn’t expect to get anything back at all.”
They discovered that some of Richard’s expensive tools had been taken, but the sentimental keepsakes were still there.
“As we’ve been unloading and finding some of our things, we’ve been laughing and sharing stories about them,” said Howes. “That’s really what’s irreplaceable.”