Volunteers braved the rain to fill sandbags near Townsend Park, as the third atmospheric river was drenching Chilliwack on Tuesday.
The volunteers show up day after day, as they have since the beginning of the flooding disaster, responding to calls through the Facebook group, FV Flood Help. Some were filling or delivering sandbags this week, while others were dropping off supplies like tents, fire rings, snacks, and coffee for the volunteers working on-site.
As of Wednesday morning the group had put out the call for more hands on deck as basements and homes had flooded overnight across Chilliwack.
Raven Weighell showed up to help at Townsend Park with housemate, Grant, on Tuesday.
“I was feeling useless sitting on the couch,” she said. “I couldn’t actually get to work because the highway was closed, so I wanted to feel useful.”
Tina Svehla had the day off, and was back at it Tuesday after showing up in the rain Monday night to fill sandbags with her daughter.
What made her show up again the very next morning?
“Just knowing that there are a lot of people who needed help in our community,” Svehla said. “And we are in a position to help.”
The community effort was just one of many organized through the FV Flood Help group, which saw more than 10,000 members join the group since it was created by Chilliwack resident Keshia Fawn.
Fawn is one of two admins of the increasingly busy FV Flood Help group, along with Abbotsford resident Kimberly Gillard who created the Google doc, Flood Resource Sheet, which lists daily resources and updates.
Fawn remembers coming up with the idea to connect people with the helpers as the flooding had just started. No one had any idea the scale of the event or how much help would actually be needed. It was the night of Sunday, Nov. 14 and people were panicking.
She‘d been scrolling through several local FB groups, and realized that folks in trouble were asking similar questions over and over. That prompted her to create FV Flood Help group, to direct and guide them to resources they needed, and voila.
It blew up overnight, and grew by thousands of members in the first and second weeks, now into the third.
“It’s amazing,” Fawn said, about all the people coming together. The messages she’s been receiving daily are so heart-warming.
“People are so grateful, and they say this has restored their faith in humanity.”
The group has been very successful in networking and sharing resources along with the Flood Resource Sheet, and even managed to reduce the pressure on emergency responders and Search and rescue volunteers as it became trusted as the flooding and slides continued.
People use the group to recruit volunteers, if they can provide a pair of hands, or sump pumps, or cleanup kits, or if they are in need of help, resources, or donations.
It’s been a time-consuming task to keep updated but so fulfilling, Fawn said, knowing that hundreds of people have been helped and rescued through the page.
“Many people are still feeling depressed from COVID, and divided over vaccines, or just struggling. With that in mind, this group was created for those who needed something to hold onto at a time like this, and reminds us of the sense of community and compassion that’s all around us.”
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