Religious organizations help community (July 31, 2013)

Written by Jenica Foster

Published by Okotoks Western Wheel on Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The recent Alberta flood has created a tremendous call for help and several groups are already providing what they can and others are preparing to help with the imminent recovery efforts.

Marie Walter, a member of the Cayley Hutterite Colony, said the moment she heard about the flood in High River the boys and men were sent into the chaos. She said her nephew, Robert Walter, dove into water up to his shoulders to save an elderly couple from drowning.

“We always stick together,” she said. “Where there’s a fire the boys are right there at the fire department. We have always gone out of our way to help people.”

While the men were out saving flood victims, the women were preparing meals for evacuees at the Tom Hornecker Recreation Centre in Nanton. Walter said the colony prepared sandwiches, roast beef, soup and chili. She said they have currently served 10 gallons of hot tomato soup, 200 loaves of bread and 200 pounds of chili. All meals are homemade in the colony’s massive kitchen and transported to Nanton daily.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has also stepped up and is offering their Helping Hands service to people whose homes have been damaged.

Neils Ludlow, the director of the Helping Hands program currently operating in Okotoks, said they will bring in as many volunteers as needed, depending on the number of work orders they receive. Volunteers will bring their own tools to pump water, remove furniture, appliances and flooring and spray for mold.

“What we do is a small service, but it is a light at the end of the tunnel that gives them hope so they can start the rebuilding process,” he said.

Ludlow said there are trucks en route to the foothills from the United States full of supplies. More than 4,000 cleaning kits, food boxes, hygiene kits and shovels are ready to be used to help make the lives of evacuees a little easier.

“These people, many are in despair,” Ludlow said. “They have lost everything they have. It gives them an opportunity to see that there is a future for them.”

Judith Cobb, a volunteer and member of the church, said she is waiting for the phones to start ringing. She said when people phone in their needs will be assessed and then a crew of about 10 to 15 people will be sent to ensure the clean up is completed within one day. The Helping Hands service will continue for several weeks, Cobb said.

“My home in Calgary is high and dry,” Cobb said while trying to suppress a sob. “I am blessed. I have everything I need so if I can do something I will.”

Samaritan’s Purse has also activated its Disaster Assistance Response Team to help with relief efforts. They have more than 1,500 volunteers and can mobilize up to 300 volunteers per day. They currently have three units, two are located in Calgary and the organization is still deciding where to send the third unit, but it will be somewhere in the foothills, said Carolyn Howarth, senior project communications advisor for Samaritan’s Purse. The organization is operating six days a week doing home clean up, including pressure washing and mold remediation. Howarth said she estimates Samaritan’s Purse will be helping homeowners for months to come.

“It is incredible as a Calgary-based organization to be able to help in our own backyard,” Howarth said.

Thirty chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada will also be available to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of affected homeowners, Howarth said. On June 29 at 1 p.m. the Okotoks Evangelical Free Church will be holding a grief care training session for those interested in talking about the situation with fellow neighbours.

Samaritan’s Purse is urging homeowners to call 1-866-628-6565 for assistance. To receive the free Helping Hands service, call 587-998-8354 or 587-998-8356.

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