When the floods hit southern Alberta June 2013, my son sent a text “Sure glad our house is on a hill…and mom, how are we going to help?” I text back “You work and send money son; I will go to Calgary and help.”
I wanted to help at the Stampede Grounds. My son makes a living in Rodeo and the Stampede brings around 300 million dollars a year to the Calgary economy. The saying “the Stampede will go on come hell or high water” took root and people got to work! The Calgary Stampede association hired equipment and people to work and pump water 24/7. They also utilized the volunteers who were already signed up to work at the stampede to lessen the toll on the volunteer pool that was needed to help the residents in need. Within a few short days they were putting up the giant Ferris wheel!
I found YYC Helps and headed over to the Bowness Community Association Monday afternoon in my rubber boots, windows down in the truck wind blown hair and grubby clothes. I walked in the office and said “YYC Helps says you have volunteer opportunities for me.” Christina looks into my eyes and says, “You come back tomorrow morning and answer the phones in this office.” I walked out laughing and text my girlfriend, “Do I have telephones tattooed on my forehead?” I thought I was grubby enough they’d send me to do some manual labor somewhere!
Michelle Dice, the Executive director had the clean-up running like a well-oiled machine. As residents called in their requests for help, we dispatched the requested number of volunteers who were willing and able to fulfill the request. The Bowness Community Association complex was full of food, cleaning supplies, paramedics, EMT’s, EMR’s, firemen, City of Calgary flood relief personnel and a host of volunteers. The police were in and out suggesting we send people in car pools, not each in their own vehicle; the number of vehicles were creating congestion issues and slowing down the movement of essential service personnel like sewer fixers, power fixers and garbage removal trucks.
During my time volunteering, over and over I was reminded of the value of answering the phone. It adds dignity, elegance, compassion and assurance in the face of a disaster.
I also volunteered at Siksika Nation and in High River. While there I witnessed people working very hard to help others pick up the pieces of their lives and get moving forward again; humanity at its finest!