From fundraising to flood cleanup, Albertans join B.C. relief efforts

Looking through a cockpit window, Capt. Nik Zimmerman has a bird’s eye view of the destruction flooding has wreaked on his hometown of Abbotsford, B.C.

A pilot with Edmonton’s 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, he and his colleagues arrived in the Lower Mainland nearly a week ago. They have been delivering bottled water, perishable food, dry goods, medicine and pet food to First Nations cut off by road closures.

“My heart truly breaks for people,” he told CBC News on Wednesday.

Albertans are stepping up to help B.C. residents during the disaster. Some Albertans, like Zimmerman and his CFB Edmonton colleagues, are already working on the front lines, while others are managing crowdfunding campaigns and applying to join cleanup crews.

Thousands apply for cleaning jobs

The recruiting agency TIPS Personnel is hiring at least 100 vaccinated workers, who will travel from either Edmonton or Calgary to clean up flooded B.C. areas for restoration companies.

National operations executive Kate Belcastro said a typical job posting usually yields 20 to 40 applicants, but this call for cleanup workers drew nearly 3,000 people. 

“People are so quick to want to lend a helping hand and just get people back on their feet and back to a normal life — it’s amazing,” she said.

Some even offered to travel from other parts of the country and work without pay.

Belcastro said once roads are clear, the first cleaning crew will depart from Calgary by bus, but plans are up in the air.

“We could get the call today and need to go out tomorrow,” she said on Wednesday.

Community members struggle to rescue stranded cattle from a farm after rainstorms caused flooding and landslides in Abbotsford., B.C., on Nov. 16, 2021. (Jesse Winter/Reuters)

Supporting families and farmers

Edmonton’s Chris Fearon and his colleagues at the hydraulics company Norcan Fluid Power, have raised nearly $4,000 to support Ryan Ridd, whose house flooded in Abbotsford.

“We’re trying to do whatever we can to help our employee and friend out through this time,” he said.

Dr. Jessica Law, a veterinarian in Calgary, and Jillian Carr, a financial planner in St. Albert who works with vets, have raised more than $56,000 to support farm families affected by the floods.

“Producers work day and night and got us through a pandemic, providing eggs, milk, dairy and beef and all of these things for us, and now it’s our time as Canadians to stand up for them and help them get through this,” Carr said.

One of the campaign’s goals is funding mental health services for farmers grappling with the loss of their animals.

“Losing their herds, losing the animals that they work with every single day, for countless years, possibly their whole lives… I have a really hard time even thinking about it,” Law said.

The town of High River, south of Calgary, flooded in 2013. (Submitted by Travis Sandor)

Travis Sandor fled his home because of flooding in High River, Alta. in 2013.

At the time, he received donated clothing and cleaning supplies from strangers.

He is planning a donation drive, coinciding with his annual Christmas lawn display, to support people in B.C.

“What really helped was just knowing that there were people out there that were helping out,” he said.

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