On June 20th, fast and heavy rain led to quick and mandatory evacuations for many regions in Southern Alberta. It is estimated 75,000 -100,000 people were displaced due to flooding. When I heard about the floods happening in our province, my first thoughts were immediately about what I could do to help.
The earliest I could get away from family duties was June 28th so I was up at 5am and on the road to Calgary to get there for the donation centers opening. I had gathered food, toiletries, baby items and clothing all to be donated as soon as I arrived. After dropping off my donations I was keen to get my hands dirty and help clean up flooded areas so I headed into downtown.
My day eventually found me in the mission area of Calgary, a volunteer center had been set up in a Safeway parking lot (as it too had been flooded and was not open). Hundreds of volunteers all lined up to be given directions on which houses required help. The set up was excellent. Food and drinks, supplies of masks, gloves and safety glasses all made available and people being directed in groups to specific houses with particular needs. Off I trotted with my new group of pals (there were 6 of us in a group) and we all took a moment to ourselves as we turned the corner onto Roxboro Drive. It was like a war had happened. Dumpsters lined the mud laden street, filled with a mix of filthy furniture and debris from the buildings. In among the devastation were people handing out sandwiches to volunteers, people walking around with tools and rubber boots covered in mud and dust, and homeowners quietly sorting their things into piles to see if any small item could be salvaged.
A few hours into my volunteering I found myself helping tear down the inside of a house built in the 1920’s. Not only had the basement flooded, but the main floor as well, probably to a height of about 4 feet. The walls were old fashioned and the water had damaged them. Since we build differently the walls could not be repaired so had to be torn down. Hammer in tow, I sadly bashed away as the plaster crumbled and fell to the floor below me. A rather large group of volunteers joined me later that afternoon, all with a church group so I smiled kindly and introduced myself, and we all worked together. Before they left however, they sought out the homeowner, a 72 year old woman who had just lost most of her belongings and was now watching her house be demolished. Her daughter was also there helping sort things out and thankfully they left their propaganda with her, instead of with the lady who lived there. Seventh Day Adventists who clearly helped out with the obvious intention of proselytizing before they left, dropping their ”Final Events” dvd on the picnic table in front of her and letting her know that this flood was God’s wrath and judgment on earth before the final end of days.
Day two found me back at the same house as I had already formed a small bond with the woman who lived there and her grown son and daughter. This time, a group of Mormons had ascended on the house. Today the walls were gone, but there were nails remaining in the framework, so the task was to remove them all. There was easily 30 Mormons in the house and when I asked they informed me they had held a very early church service so that the entire church congregation could come out to lend a hand. Upwards of 90 volunteers from their church out in different parts of the street, all of them wearing their Jesus Of Latter Day Saints Mormon ”Helping Hands” shirts, so they would be easy to identify. Unlike the Seventh Day Adventists, the Mormon group did not leave any information nor did they approach the family to talk about anything religiously minded at any time. Their shirts obviously did their proselytizing for them.
This is not meant to be unappreciative, I am extremely thankful to the church groups who took the time to come and help, especially on the Sunday as I found it especially heartwarming that they changed their regular routines to be out in their community helping to rebuild and clean up. These groups were organised, bringing their own tools and with many young hard working people in their groups they were able to accomplish a lot in only a few short hours in each house they visited. There were warm smiles and thankful replies when I told them I had come from Edmonton for the weekend to donate my time.
I only wish they’d left their propaganda at home, and helped simply for the sake of helping.