When flooding devastated communities in southern Saskatchewan in 2014, Samaritan’s Purse was there to help homeowners in need. This is a collection of stories and photos from our response.
“We needed to draw a line in the sand,” said Stephen Joudry, who coordinated the Samaritan’s Purse flood response in Melville, Saskatchewan in summer 2014. For one month Stephen, his wife Mae, and more than 340 volunteers had been busy helping residents recover from the worst flood they’d experienced in recent history. “After seriously considering a lot of variables, it’s time to wind down and move on.”
“You become part of the fabric of a community,” said Stephen. “We’re there to walk beside these people for a period of time.” He smiles as he recalls a time when their work in another town coincided with a municipal election. A town official remarked, “You’re the most popular guy in town-you could run for mayor right now.”
Stephen never stops reminding his team that the people they serve are not statistics. As a result, many relationships develop between the server and the served during the course of a disaster relief deployment. “You become attached in different ways, but you have to move on,” says Stephen. “When you ramp up, it’s quite demanding. Then it levels off, and when you finish there are all these things you have to consider.”
Mae was the office manager at the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Unit and she kept all their ‘ducks in a row’-remembering to send thank you notes, close off accounts, disconnect communications networks, log statistics, and file reports. “It is important to recognize and thank those ‘invisible’ helpers, including churches, electricians, restaurant servers, and many others who are part of our team,” said Stephen.
The number of work orders coming in had been steadily declining and stopped completely at 135. Stephen wanted to make sure all the work orders have been taken care of. “If someone needs help that didn’t get in when we were here, we may call a local church and say, “Can you take care of this?”
“We like to leave a property in better shape than we found it,” he added as he surveyed the trucks, trailers, Bobcat, generator, and other equipment surrounding the 75-foot-long Disaster Relief Unit parked in a lot at the edge of town. Getting equipment back to the Samaritan’s Purse Canada head office in Calgary sets the stage for the next phase of demobilization. Stephen uses the following analogy: “When a fire truck returns to the station, if it’s not re-stocked you’re going to have a problem at the next fire.”
As the rest of his staff was getting ready to return home, Stephen reminded them, “When we walk through the door of a house, we don’t know where that journey will end.” He went on to tell the story of how he reconnected with a family he met during the southern Alberta flood in 2013 when he returned as part of the Samaritan’s Purse Southern Alberta Restoration Project.
As for Stephen and Mae, they will return to their home in New Brunswick and await the next call to respond.
Samaritan’s Purse moves the Banerds forward
The Melville, Saskatchewan flood hit Allan and Florence Banerd from the top and the bottom. Six inches of flood water seeped up through the basement floor into their house and water poured in from the roof.
“We noticed there was a problem because there was water dripping onto the dining room table,” Al said. “And a little drip by my chair.” They didn’t have a sump pump so they used a shop vac and a broom to take care of the water. Their neighbor helped out.
Al has a lung condition and Flo just finished cancer surgery on her face. With these issues, the doctor told Al and Flo they couldn’t live in their home.
They weren’t allowed to work on or enter the home, either. Their daughter Denise, drove in from Lloydminster to help empty the home’s contents into sheds in the backyard. Their son Gary drove in from Saskatoon to move the furniture out.
The Banerds looked around and found a home-the only available rental in town-and moved in. But it’s expensive. “It’s $2,000 a month,” Flo said. “It’s beyond our reach.” They could handle a couple of months’ rent, but they couldn’t hang on for long.
A Samaritan’s Purse crew came in to work on their basement and ceiling. And while they were solving roof issues, they discovered vermiculite, which often contains asbestos. The sample that the work crew took for testing contained six percent asbestos, “Which is high,” said Stephen Joudry, an Operations Coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse Canadian disaster relief who is called in to assess the tricky construction issues that sometimes confront volunteer work crews.
“If we can’t do something about this asbestos, these folks would have to call in specialists,” Stephen said. “If we can’t figure out a way to handle it, they won’t be able to move forward. They’ll be stuck.”
That morning, Al and Flo were in their backyard sorting through belongings. Flo was picking through a box of memories, photos, and newspaper clippings, holding each one to her nose to see if it smells. “If it’s moldy,” she said, “I have to throw it out.” She paused on an article featuring her daughter, and her eyes teared up. “I guess I’m still in shock,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to move.”
Stephen met them on the back porch. He was there with his flashlight to poke around. He left the couple on the deck to assess the home. When he returned, he grinned. “I think we can help you guys out. I think we can handle it without calling in the army.” Al and Flo were relieved.
A few moments later, their daughter Denise telephoned Stephen to discuss the situation and the way forward. After the call, Stephen promised to return and finish the work so their renovations could proceed. “That’s good news,” he said. “They need the help.”
You can’t buy it in the tourist shops like you can Yukon Air or Newfoundland Screech. Who would want it anyway? It’s called black mold-and it’s a common ‘souvenir’ inside buildings that have been flooded. Carol Kosedy took one look and said, “I just got kinda scared.”
Carol and her husband Hugh were busy helping others after Melville, Saskatchewan’s early-summer flood. They thought their own water problems were relatively minor. After all, Carol said, “We’re fortunate because we live on a hill,” while others experienced so much damage to their homes that, “life as they know it came to an end.”
Carol thought things were fine in her home until, “All of a sudden I went [to the basement] two weeks ago and I noticed this black mold,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do.”
Black mold is a type of fungus that loves warm, damp places where it can grow rapidly. As it matures, it produces microscopic spores that become airborne. Health Canada says: “People respond to mold in different ways, depending upon the amount of exposure and the person’s overall health. Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of mold than others. This includes children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system or other medical conditions such as asthma, severe allergies, or other respiratory conditions.” The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety notes that: “For some people, inhalation of the mold, fragments of the molds or spores can lead to health problems, or make some health conditions worse.” Damp wood, drywall and paper products promote rapid growth and spreading of the mold.
Carol had seen the specially equipped Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Unit trailer on her way to and from work at the hospital in Melville. “We are so fortunate that Samaritan’s Purse is here for people who need help,” she thought. Then it hit her, “I need help! I need these people! I need somebody!
“I stopped in and I said, “This is my problem. I really don’t know what to do. I’m scared. I’m wearing a mask but you know this stuff is moving and it’s moving bad.”
Stephen Joudry, who coordinated the Samaritan’s Purse flood response in Melville and area, immediately arranged to inspect her home. Then a team of volunteers arrived with protective gear and began gutting the basement room full of mold (and mice). Before the team left, they set up electric fans to help dry out the basement and recommended that Carol install a dehumidifier to hasten the drying process.
A few days later, Stephen returned to assess the progress and spray the infected areas with a special disinfectant that kills any residual mold and guards against its return. Carol is relieved-her fears are gone just in time to host family that is visiting over the long weekend. “I was feeling so lost and I am so glad I talked to you guys, I’m feeling so much better now.”
Samaritan’s Purse helps Karen Daunheimer
Karen Daunheimer lives in the small town of Neudorf, Saskatchewan. She’s endured a lot of hardship during her lifetime.
The latest setback was the summer 2014 flood that hit Melville and also several homes in Neudorf, including Daunheimer’s. Samaritan’s Purse volunteers cleaned out her basement and tarped her roof. Volunteer Ted Redekop returned to spray her basement and eliminate any remaining mold.
Karen makes her way through the crowd of furniture in her living room to a small open space in her kitchen around the table. She’s grateful to Samaritan’s Purse because their efforts enabled her to live in her home again. She’d been forced to sleep in a motel for a several nights because she suffers with an auto-immune deficiency, and the mold interfered with her health.
“I came home about halfway through the rain,” she said. “When I came home my son said to me, ‘The basement’s flooding.’ I looked downstairs and I could see the water was even with the bottom step already. What can you do? I didn’t know what to do.
“I did have a sump pump, but it quit. I kept looking down and [the water] kept rising. I could see things starting to float and I could hear things falling over. I had nothing on the floor. Everything was up, but when the shelves and furniture started floating, things started tipping over.
“I was very upset at first. It was four o’clock in the morning and I was still looking down the stairs. I shut the door and let what happened happen. I don’t have a lot of energy, so I thought, ‘save your energy for what you need. You’re going to need a lot for the clean-up afterwards.'”
The next day, she called the manager of the Neudorf Co-op. “I said, ‘I’ve got four feet of water in my basement. Do you have any submersible sump pumps? He told me he had one left, but no hose for it.” She bought it.
Karen, her youngest son, and a friend improvised a hose from duct tape and a vacuum cleaner hose so the new pump could work.
“We pumped from 1 p.m. Sunday ’til 8 p.m. Monday,” she said.
Once the water was out, Karen assessed the damage. “The basement was filled with soaking wet stuff. It was already starting to smell after just one day. You could see the white foamy mold already forming all along the wall where the water had been.”
“When the water was gone, I had my little cry,” she recalled. “We lost the baby pictures, the kids’ report cards. My Grade 12 diploma was down there, my social work diploma. Things like that. They were in sealed plastic containers, but when they started to float and bump into other things, they leaked. Only two of them made it. The photos were moldy and gobbed together. When you tried to pull them apart they just ripped.
“My water heater and furnace were out,” she says. “My washer and dryer were gone. I don’t have any way to wash anything. I don’t have hot water. I don’t have heat. We couldn’t get out of town for the first three-and-a-half days. We were blocked in because every road was washed out.”
Finally, she was able to make it to the disaster center at the Horizon Credit Union Center. Because of Karen’s medical condition, she was given a room in a motel in Melville.
While she was there, Neudorf was hit with another calamity.
“Exactly a week after the flood, we had a hail storm. That’s what ruined my roof,” Karen said. “There was one guy who had a hail stone smash out his back window, bounce through his windshield, and smash a dent in the middle of his hood. All from the same hail stone!” The hail damaged her roof so badly that it began to leak-meaning more water inside her home.
The flood and hail were another in a long list of difficulties Karen has suffered. Despite all the sorrow, Karen remains upbeat.
“Samaritan’s Purse cleaned up the basement,” she said. “They took the wall board off. They hauled the appliances out. They tarped the roof for me. The reason I could get home was because of Samaritan’s Purse.”
The Melville chainsaw team
The Samaritan’s Purse team in Melville helped residents clean up after the worst flood the city ever experienced. As if that wasn’t enough, overnight a severe storm blew through the region carrying heavy rains and high winds. The next morning saw branches littered across lawns and downed trees along the streets.
During the day, a homeowner who lives just a few blocks from where our Disaster Relief Unit was set up arrived asking for help to clear a 40-foot-tall poplar that the storm had blown over in her backyard. After supper, nine volunteers decided to give up the rest of their evening to clear this tree from the yard.
Armed with chainsaws and a bobcat, the team of volunteers from both Manitoba and Ontario made short work of the poplar-cutting, limbing, and clearing the massive tree in about 90 minutes to the relief and delight of the homeowner.
We never know what needs we will be able to meet when we’re out on a disaster response, which is why our Disaster Relief Units are fully-stocked every time we roll out to a storm. God blessed us with the resources to help the residents of Melville-whether mudding out a flooded home or clearing a 40-foot poplar from the backyard.
Melville mayor appreciates Samaritan’s Purse
Dr. Walter Streelasky is the mayor of Melville. Two-and-a-half weeks after early-summer floodwaters receded in Melville, Saskatchewan, he was in his office writing thank you notes to groups and individuals who helped his city during its crisis.
Of Samaritan’s Purse, he said: “Here’s a group who came to our city and said, ‘Let’s take the burden off the shoulders of some of these people.’ I’m so grateful for that.”
“A lot of our structures are prepared for a once-in-50-year flood, whether it’s a dam site or a reservoir, and other infrastructure,” he added. “This flood was probably a once-in-150-year flood. The rain, the wet, and so on-we coped with that as best we could. But then when we had to evacuate the hospital and Saint Paul’s Home, our seniors’ residence facility, there was certainly a lot of concern, almost a panic.”
Fortunately, Streelasky said, there was also a very strong response from local volunteers who helped to pile up protective sandbags around various buildings, including the hospital and seniors’ home. “Many people were manning the sandbags, running back home to check on their sump pumps and running back to help again.” Melville’s citizens packed and piled 35,000 sandbags.
“I was talking to some people from Samaritan’s Purse and they used the term ‘invisible flood,'” Streelasky said. “At this stage, that’s what it is. There aren’t many outward signs, but there’s still a lot of work left to do in basements and family rooms.”
“Samaritan’s Purse set up its specially equipped Disaster Relief Unit at the Horizon Credit Union Center and is doing a tremendous job of assisting those who can’t care for themselves-the elderly, the widow, the widower. They still have their homes.
“They love where they live and their neighbors. I know that some of our community members are working to assist Samaritan’s Purse,” continued Streelasky. “I know there have been food and monetary donations to Samaritan’s Purse, and we hope this continues.”
“I’ve been the mayor of this community for eight years, going on nine,” he added. “I’ve known it to be a welcoming and supportive community. This flood called for a different kind of support. But our people came out. They were patient. They were considerate. It’s made us weary, but it’s bonded us. We’re called to care for our neighbor, to love our neighbor. This flood called us to tighten our bonds.”
The Melville flood’s Christmas connection
For 84-year-old Helen Ward, the Melville flood in late June and early July connected to Christmas. Why? Because it’s Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who cleaned up the flood damage in her basement, while she’s been a consistent volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift program for decades.
Helen’s flood story began in the fall of 1961-with a hail storm, and the response of some generous strangers that taught her the impact giving can have.
“We had a beautiful crop coming up,” she recalled. “And we had little wee kids. My husband went to buy a binder for the harvest. By the time he got home, we were hailed out-nothing to harvest.”
“We were counting on that crop,” she continued. “We had to buy feed for our animals and Christmas was right around the corner. How do we tell our little kids they get nothing for Christmas? We didn’t know what to do.”
“Then the church phoned my husband,” she said. “Some church in Toronto had sent Christmas supplies out here to be distributed. There were lots of families that got hailed out.
“That was the best Christmas we ever had,” she noted. “We got nuts, candy, apples, oranges, gifts from Santa Claus, gifts from each other. Food. A turkey. Everything. You couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Years later, when Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child program first came to Melville, Helen jumped on it.
“I’ve been doing the shoeboxes ever since. Maybe 20 years. Samaritan’s Purse didn’t supply us with boxes at first,” she recalled. “I went to the Melville shoe store manager and asked him to save the shoe boxes. ‘How many do you need?’ he’d ask me. When I asked for 30, he said, ‘Helen, how am I supposed to get that many?’ But if I went to pick them up and he didn’t have enough, he’d pull shoes out of boxes and set them on the shelf.
“Last year, I did 117,” Helen said. “I’ve got six or eight of those blue totes filled with stuff for this year already.”
In 2014, the flood that visited Melville brought several centimeters of water into Helen Ward’s basement. Mold quickly began to crawl up her basement wall. Family members did what they could and her son signed her up to be helped by Samaritan’s Purse.
A chaplain’s view of the flood
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada provided volunteer Rapid Response Team chaplains to work alongside Samaritan’s Purse volunteers at the disaster sites.
Victims of a flood like the one that hit Melville struggle with the obvious aspects of the disaster. They have to clean up and sometimes rebuild. But the physical damage often becomes a window into emotional and spiritual struggles.
The chaplains support the victims and clean-up volunteers, and even Samaritan’s Purse staff. In Melville, Rapid Response Team chaplains visited flood-damaged homes while the clean-up work was underway-talking and praying with the homeowners and volunteers. When the clean-up was complete, the chaplains followed up again with the homeowners to offer more support and prayer.
“The primary thing we do is comfort the human spirit on both a humanitarian and spiritual level,” said Mike and Janet Voth of Calgary. “We come into a home following an assessor (who determines what clean-up is necessary) or while they’re doing mud-outs. We bring comfort.”
Don and Judy Prince of Waterloo, Ontario, serve as chaplains, too. “Some [victims] get that we’re doing this in the Name of our Lord,” Don said, “some can’t understand why were doing it, but they know it’s a religious group.”
“What’s happened to them really hasn’t sunk in,” Mike Voth said. “When we walk in the door, it gives them an opportunity to step away from what’s happening and tell their story. When they begin to tell their story, that’s the start of healing.”
“There are often layers to the story,” Janet Voth added. “I was talking to a woman about her flood damage only to discover she was still grieving the loss of her husband.”
“Sometimes, we were dealing with people who haven’t eaten for days,” Janet said. “People come around with food but sometimes victims don’t eat it. They feel like they can’t stop working. You’ve got to take them aside and pass them a sandwich and a bottle of water. We watch for signs of people at the end of their rope. Grief and trauma, suicide prevention.”
“Many times we’re the first time that they let the tears fall. Victims often feel that they have to stay strong for the people around them. It’s like we give them permission to grieve, to feel the pain. Many times they feel guilty. Someone always has it worse than they do.”
In some instances it’s appropriate to bring up spiritual things. “If the Spirit leads and the people are open, we can bring the spiritual aspect into it,” Mike said. “I would say 90 percent want prayer. Even if they don’t understand it or practice it, it’s like ‘what can it hurt?’
“When the prayer is over, you see this whole change in their demeanor,” he added. “It lets them breathe. God brings peace into chaos.”
“The big question people ask is ‘where was God when the disaster happened?” Mike noted. Samaritan’s Purse can serve as the answer to that question. “When you go in and start meeting physical needs, then they want to know more.
“Sometimes people know who Billy Graham is and what Samaritan’s Purse is,” Janet said. “Other houses I walk in and they ask: ‘Are you Billy?'”
“It’s the model that Christ gave us,” Mike concluded. “Samaritan’s Purse walks through the door to serve. We (from the Billy Graham Association) follow with comfort and spiritual support. Without the serving, the Gospel doesn’t spread. We need to earn the right to speak.”
Mae’s double blessing
For Mae Joudry, office manager for Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s flood response operations base in Melville, Saskatchewan, Trevor Dumalski is her own personal “double blessing.”
Mae and her husband Stephen, the flood response coordinator, arrived in Melville two days after the flood struck in late June. They set up Samaritan’s Purse’s Disaster Relief Unit, but two major problems immediately confronted them.
“The first thing was to get the Internet connected,” Mae said. “We need it for our computers and phones. Usually we hook into the wifi of a facility. However, it wouldn’t work.”
The second problem was where to sleep. Stephen and Mae were told they’d have to move out of their hotel because all of Melville’s hotels and motels were completely booked for a baseball tournament. No room at the inn.
“Trevor showed up on Wednesday,” Mae said. “He couldn’t volunteer but he wanted to help.”
“My wife and I have just finished our basement, Trevor said. “It has a kitchen area and a family room, and two bedrooms. Would that be helpful?”
When Stephen asked Trevor where he worked, he replied he was in charge of technology for Horizons Credit Union. He spent hours getting our phones and Internet up and running.
“Steve, Mae, (and chaplains) Judy and Don are staying at my house,” Trevor noted. “We talk about God Moments. You really don’t realize how many there are in a day until you start noticing them. There are so many.”
A day volunteering
A day spent as a volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse is a day well spent. But exactly what does that kind of day look like?
Stephen and Mae Joudry were at the Samaritan’s Purse operations base by 7:30 a.m. to prepare for the day’s work. Mae unlocked the door to the specially equipped Disaster Relief Unit and dived into administrative work. Stephen and team leaders, Ted Redekop and Greg Schmidt, discussed what flood clean-up was scheduled for the day, developed plans, and selected equipment. Chaplain Judy Prince set up the volunteer sign-up table and stocked it with baked goods.
By 8 a.m., volunteers began to arrive. They signed in, each received his or her trademark orange Samaritan’s Purse t-shirt, and was assigned to a work team.
Jobs were assigned and final bits of equipment were loaded onto the trucks. Then the teams gathered. Stephen reminded them of our purpose-to be there for the homeowner.
“Listen,” he reminded them. “Productivity is not the most important thing.”
Then group members joined hands while chaplain Don Prince briefly prayed.
The work teams dispersed to their vehicles and drove to each job site. They worked until about 11:45 a.m., then returned to the base for lunch cooked and served by the Salvation Army’s Glenna and Keith Cryderman. After a good break, it was back for an afternoon of helping.
The work teams finished around 5:00 p.m. Each volunteer left a little richer than when he or she came.
The Carrot River crew helps a Melville resident
Four young men from Carrot River in northern Saskatchewan-Dwayne Dyck, Bobby Isaac, Quinton Isaac, and Brandon Reimer-left home at 4:00 a.m., and drove five hours to Melville. After checking in with Samaritan’s Purse, they met Todd Hutchinson in front of his father’s trim, well-maintained home.
The crew headed into the basement, where Todd had already moved out furniture and part of the soggy, smelly carpet. Piled up furniture, shelving and a workbench, needed to be moved to gain access to the remaining carpet. On the workbench, every tool was in its place and the surface was clear and neat.
Greg Schmidt, their team leader, described the work that needed to be done and the Carrot River crew flew into action. Dwayne opened the windows for ventilation. Brandon pried off the water-damaged door trim and baseboards. Quinton pushed furniture aside and began to rip out more carpet. Bobby snapped a chalk line so the soggy drywall could be cut and removed. There was talking, jokes, and singing tossed back and forth between the men as they worked.
They pushed themselves throughout the day, and finished the basement clean-up by dinner time. But while other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers dug into some supper, the tired four from Carrot River skipped the meal and began the long drive home.
“I didn’t think we were going to finish,” said Greg,” but they worked hard. I’m going to sleep well tonight.”
Melville residents help their neighbors
If the Melville flood was a question, volunteers were the answer! Melville residents needed help with the flood clean-up. Volunteers were there to answer the need. Some volunteers were from Melville itself.
Heidi Schulz’s day job is a funeral director for one of the two funeral homes in Melville. She was there to give back to her community and help those who needed a hand. She bounced up to the volunteer desk to the cheers of other volunteers who know her.
“I’m here because I love to be here,” she said. “I like the physical work. It gives my brain a rest.”
That day she was preparing to work with three other volunteers in the flood-damaged basement of a Melville home owned by Karen. Her team members included Cheryl Trafanako, who works at a local bank, and Keegan Braun, the son of a Melville pastor.
Volunteers arrived in Melville from all over western Canada. Crews drove in from Manitoba and Alberta. Local residents jumped into the mix too.
“Volunteers are the heartbeat of the work,” said Stephen Joudry, project manager with Samaritan’s Purse.
When the crew arrived at Karen’s home, everyone donned protective masks to avoid inhaling mold. Karen had been up all night because the mold interfered with her sleep.
As the team started to work, Karen seemed relieved. “I couldn’t keep up with the wet and the mold coming up,” she said. “It keeps coming back until you get it all.”
Adding to her frustration was the fact that the flood also destroyed many personal items.
Karen’s basement filled with 20 centimeters of water that mixed with a septic tank back-up to create an orange-yellow mix of disgusting fluid. She took photos, and was sharing them with the volunteers.
The water soaked into the basement drywall and insulation: a perfect environment for mold. The volunteers ripped out the drywall and insulation. The flooring had already been removed.
Ted Redekop, a volunteer from Calgary, guided the crew’s work. Heidi operated the reciprocating saw, while Keegan removed the cut pieces of drywall, and Cheryl pulled out the wet insulation.
The crew hauled the contaminated waste to the street edge where the City of Melville would pick it up and haul it away. The volunteers moved to another flood-damaged home to repeat the process. Meanwhile, Samaritan’s Purse prepared to send a separate team to Karen’s home to spray the entire basement to ensure the mold didn’t reappear.
Samaritan’s Purse helps the Camerons
“Samaritan’s Purse are angels in disguise,” Valerie Cameron said. “You just can’t see their wings.”
Valerie, her husband Rod and their son Matthew live in a yellow bungalow with brown trim on Melville’s main street. To anyone driving by, things looked fine.
But the Camerons were hit hard by the Melville flood. At first it felt like a spring rain storm, but the rain never let up. “We had nine inches of rain in 24 hours,” Valerie said.
When water started to seep up through the floor of the basement, the family prepared to pump water out of the basement to try to limit the damage.
“We pushed water for four days and four nights,” Valerie said. “The more we pushed, the more came in.”
“It was just clear water-thank God for that,” Rod said. “But it was a foot deep. The mold smell was terrible.”
Once the water receded, the dampness and mold in their basement set in, so they relocated for a few days to a hotel. “Then Samaritan’s Purse contacted us. I think we were the first family they helped.”
Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains also contacted them before the clean-up and mold removal work began. “We were still in shock, Valerie recalls. “Where do we start? ”
The volunteer work crew spent two days cleaning out the house. “They slushed through everything,” Valerie said. “They were unstoppable. Nothing seemed like it was too much trouble. If it hadn’t been for Samaritan’s Purse, I don’t know where we’d be.”
Melville’s invisible flood
“Melville’s flood caused damage that’s difficult to see,” noted Greg Schmidt, a retired firefighter who was waiting for other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers to arrive and help clean up a flood-damaged home in the Saskatchewan community 150 kilometers northeast of Regina.
Because the flood damage in Melville was difficult to see, it could have been equally difficult for Canadians to realize how great a need there was for volunteers to help with the clean-up. Fortunately it wasn’t.
Schmidt, from Calgary, also served with Samaritan’s Purse a year ago in High River, after mammoth flooding hit southern Alberta.
“When you drove down the streets of High River, you could see where the damage was,” he said. “The river moved in and brought the mud with it. It was more like a lava flow of mud.”
The Melville flood, which happened in early July, was different.
“You couldn’t see the damage,” Schmidt said. “The water came and sunk back down. There’s no mud around anywhere. People’s lawns are green. As you drive around town you don’t see much. You see the occasional pile of furniture and belongings in peoples’ yards. Everything looks like it’s back to normal.”
But appearances are deceiving. Though the water didn’t carry a payload of mud, it brought mold, rot, and messy sewer back-ups to many houses. You just weren’t aware of it until you walked through the doors.
“You can’t see it until you actually go in a house,” Schmidt said. “You smell the mold and mildew growing in there.
“The longer it goes, the worse it’s going to get,” Schmidt said. “It’s been over two weeks now. Homes are starting to get pretty stinky and smelly.”
Saskatchewan flood response
Samaritan’s Purse deployed a Disaster Relief Unit and recruited local volunteers to devastating flooding in the Melville area.
Our Disaster Relief Units are specially equipped tractor trailers stocked with generators, pumps, hand tools, and safety gear for staff and volunteers to clean up homes-to share God’s love in a tangible way with hurting people.
“We want to thank Samaritan’s Purse Canada for their aid during this unprecedented flood in southeastern Saskatchewan,” said Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. “Organizations like yours make a real difference to people who desperately need help.”
Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief staff Wanda and Claus Burchert assessed the flood damage, and their reports were dire: “The area that is flooding is the whole southeast corner of Saskatchewan-it’s quite extensive,” said Wanda. “We were north of Regina, and it goes all the way to the US border. A lot of the side roads have been washed out and there’s water running like rapids where there’s supposed to be a road.”
The Burcherts heard the stories of many flooded homeowners at Melville’s recovery center. “When I explained what we do and then added, “and it’s free” tears came, because they just didn’t know how they were going to cope with it,” said Wanda. “So immediately there was some hope and relief.”
We worked directly with Provincial Disaster Assistance Program officials. 135 work orders were completed (89 of those were completed by Samaritan’s Purse volunteers). The work orders were to clean out and sanitize homes that were filled with anywhere from four inches to four feet of floodwater. The community is largely seniors and many do not have family support locally. Samaritan’s Purse also partnered with Rapid Response Team chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to help meet the emotional and spiritual needs of flood survivors and volunteers.
In total, 348 volunteers served with Samaritan’s Purse, contributing 2,789 hours.