Volunteering to help High River flood victims

After the terrible floods in Southern Alberta this summer, we at Medi-Quote Insurance Brokers wanted to do our part to help the victims of the flood. Our Calgary team decided they would spend a day helping clean up the mess in High River, one of the places hardest hit by the flood. We have many clients and family in High River, so when given the opportunity to help Shirley, Wanda, Tera and Katie jumped at the chance to help.

Tera gives an account below of the experience and what it was like volunteering in the flood clean-up efforts.

We arrived to High River Volunteer Centre July 10,2013 – amazed at how well organized and how many supplies were donated and available to us.  They had everything we would need to ensure our safety, first aid care and food and water to get us energized. They took us to an area to show the map of where we would be going and then we attended the safety briefing. After signing a couple forms we were ready to get to work.

We were advised that Wallaceville just opened the day before; they were one of the hardest hit areas and needed our help.  After a short shuttle bus ride we arrived in our rubber boots, painters suits with shovels and pails in hand.  We met the co-ordinator of the area who explained to us what needed to be done and get us to our first unit to get started.

We began in a unit owned by a young man, who had his Mother there helping him – his Mother and Sister’s houses in High River were also devastated by the flood.  They had Firefighters from Slave Lake there the day before to help shovel out the mud – so what they needed was to tear out the walls (many of which covered in mould) and insulation two feet above the water line.   With a group of us, this work took not much more than 30 minutes.  We called in some help to go upstairs to haul out his fridge. You could smell the stench coming from it even though the doors were sealed shut with tape.  This wasn’t the end of the work to be done here, but all that we could help him with until Insurance Adjusters could arrive to assess things further.

We moved to our next unit, this one was vacant, as the owners hadn’t arrived yet.  The double garage was full of eight inches of mud that had started to dry – the clay like substance burying the items left in the garage. With a team of twelve people we began to shovel, it was heavy and stuck to our shovel. While our feet slipped on the floor beneath we worked for several hours to dig out items like antique cabinets, a washer, dryer and bikes.  Even though the owners weren’t there we know they would be appreciated that this mud was cleared out.

The next unit was by far the worst that we had seen.  The elderly owners had just arrived and opened the sealed garage.  The stench made your eyes burn and the odor came strongly through your mask causing you to gag.  The garage was full; growing with mould and within here was hundreds of dollars’ worth of pantry items and food supplies.  The elderly couple having a hard time believing that everything had to be disposed of, we convinced this was best for their health.  A large team of us began the clean out; the mud was about 10 inches deep and the consistency of thick gravy.   As we worked, the mud tried to pull our boots off, or had us sliding on it like a sheet of ice. We filled bin after bin of items that were now garbage, with only a few salvageable items that were placed on top of some tables.  The mud was shoveled out proving to be even more challenging than the clay-like substance. When we moved into the inside of the house, the mud covered the floor and the entire contents of the house had to be removed – either to be disposed of or set out to dry with hopes of being cleaned and restored.

Amidst the devastation on the faces of the home owners that broke your heart, the vision of the street of the area that was only one year old, now covered in thick dry mud and the stench in the air - we found a vibrant pink plant blossoming inside it’s mud-buried  boot planter that assumedly belonged to someone from somewhere in the area – giving us a sense that there is a glimmer of hope within all of this mess.

Our hearts go out to those who have to rebuild their lives and our thanks go out to the many emergency workers and volunteers that have showed our community  spirit, we are thankful we could be apart of it and do our part to help.