A collection of stories, videos, and pictures from our disaster response following the 2013 southern Alberta floods.
“Working the way Jesus did”
Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers celebrate the completion of a basement renovation after the 2013 floods caused a devastating blow to John and Meena Myles in Calgary.
“In June, 2013 the great flood came,” said John Myles. His wife Meena finished his sentence: “We thought that we were spared but we weren’t.”
The couple, in their mid-to-late 70s, lives in the neighborhood of Bowness in Calgary, Alberta. It was one of the worst-hit communities in the city, with many of its long-time residents inundated by floodwaters from the Bow River.
As for the Myles’ home, it suffered a major sewer backup, but not until the flood’s damage appeared to be over. That’s why they mistakenly thought they’d been spared.
Though the floodwaters hadn’t reached their home on the outside, the backup resulted in five feet of water in their basement, halfway up the staircase to the main floor.
“Everything that was down there was wiped out including my stamp collection, which broke my heart,” said John. He also listed vinyl albums, wedding videos, and letters from his mother in the United Kingdom among the keepsakes that were destroyed.
The days that followed brought shock, but also a steady stream of volunteers and free sandwiches.
“The entire [Bowness] village seemed to descend on us,” said John.
“We had wonderful volunteers,” Meena added. “The first people who came to our house were from Samaritan’s Purse.”
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers hauled out water-soaked possessions and sprayed disinfectant to stop mold from growing in the Myles’ hollowed-out basement.
“They set a wonderful example of humanity,” said John. Little did anyone know that a few days of work in the Myles’ home would become many months of helping them complete a full basement renovation.
In the fall of 2013, Samaritan’s Purse launched the Southern Alberta Restoration Project to help flood-affected families repair their homes and return to normal life. Meena was referred to Samaritan’s Purse by the Red Cross.
“God had shone on us,” says Meena. “From that to this day, everybody has been wonderful.”
In December 2014, friends of the Myles, staff from Samaritan’s Purse, and Adopt a Home volunteers from RockPointe Church gathered at the couple’s house to celebrate a basement complete with two bedrooms, an office, bathroom, laundry room, and ‘Meena-sized’ pantry—perfect for the small East Indian woman who was raised in the Caribbean.
“You’re all living and working the way Jesus did,” John said to those gathered. “I feel the love. It’s been very moving-your willingness, your generosity, your exuberance. You’ve been able to give me an element of hope.”
The less mud, the better
A homeowner in High River reflects on the 2013 southern Alberta flood, grateful for the help that has been given since.
“The less mud you see, the better I think,” said Denise. Thankfully there isn’t any mud in sight from the vantage point of Denise’s back porch in High River, Alberta. In fact, several plants are sprouting out of her fire pit-come-herb garden, and a vivid green lawn stretches from the porch steps to her back fence.
But it wasn’t that way in 2013, when floods devastated much of southern Alberta, including Denise’s property.
“There was so much junk back here, on the deck and in the backyard-stuff that had floated in from the river,” she said. “It didn’t hit our main floor, fortunately. Very close. But the basement was full.”
Denise recalls seeing a ‘wall of water’ coming toward her down the street as she and her husband evacuated. And she remembers the warmth and sunshine several days later when a group of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers showed up to help.
“The camaraderie between the members of the crew was fabulous,” said Denise
“We had at least six inches of mud in the garage. They cleared all that out and washed it out. It looked better than it did before,” she laughed.
Denise and her husband lost many possessions in the flood. But they gained a new treasure: a Bible, signed by every Samaritan’s Purse volunteer who helped out around their home. “That’ll be a keepsake forever,” she said. “They said a really lovely prayer-and that was that. The love-you could just feel it. It was quite a moving experience.”
Baby steps bring hope
Renovations bring a sense of normalcy back to a family whose home was flooded.
There’s a lot of people who lost their homes, so I’m thankful for what we have,” said Lisa.*
The Albertan’s fully-developed basement was engulfed by floodwaters in July, 2013- he weight of it opened a 20-foot hole in one of their basement walls, allowing filthy, chocolate milk-like liquid to stream in unhindered. Two inches of overflow spilled onto the main floor.
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers cleaned and disinfected the basement; friends fixed the broken wall. But while the home may have been saved, there was still much work to do.
Then Lisa became part of the Southern Alberta Restoration Project, which helped dozens of families make home repairs and put their lives back together after the 2013 floods.
“We’ve got to take this in baby steps,” a Samaritan’s Purse caseworker named Tim told Lisa when he met her.
Since then-thanks to the generosity and volunteerism of people like you-we have helped Lisa build a frost wall, frame and insulate her basement, install a new furnace and hot water heater, hire professional cleaners to scour her home, and lay new laminate flooring in her living room.
Step-by-step, life is returning to normal at Lisa’s household. “Thanks for all your help,” she said. “I really appreciate this.”
Tim and others from Samaritan’s Purse recently prayed for Lisa and presented her with a decorative sign that says “HOPE.”A few months ago, our team surprised her husband with cake and coffee to celebrate his birthday. There was no heat in the house at the time, so they huddled together and enjoyed the warmth of each other’s company.
As Samaritan’s Purse aids families in the aftermath of disasters like the 2013 southern Alberta floods, our hope and prayer is that families will experience the love of Jesus Christ through our words and actions.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy
Country music star Paul Brandt joined Samaritan’s Purse to help flood victims in High River
There was no trademark cowboy hat and no acoustic guitar so many people might not have recognized country music star Paul Brandt when he joined a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer work crew helping victims of massive flooding in High River, Alberta.
That all changed when TV and newspaper reporters arrived to interview Paul, who is also known for his many charitable endeavors.
“I’m just trying to use my platform to tell people about the great work Samaritan’s Purse is doing—being the hands and feet of Jesus,” he said, taking a break from carrying materials out of a flood-damaged garage.
“It’s amazing to see the way they serve, so I wanted to be part of it.”
Paul and the rest of the team were helping retired pastor Edgar Craig, 89, and his wife, Evelyn, 74, deal with the aftermath of Highwood River floodwaters that poured into their bungalow in late June.
Evelyn was at the local thrift store when flood warnings spread through the town of 13,000 south of Calgary. She tried to return home to help Edgar, but found the road was closed. Eventually, Edgar (who has difficulty walking) was carried to safety atop an old door.
Ten days after the flood, the Craigs were allowed to go back home.
“By then, it was really toxic,” Evelyn recalled. “All the furniture was swirled around and all the wood shelving was swollen so it was very hard to move it.”
Among the items lost was a First World War kit bag belonging to Edgar’s father, along with 70 years of family photos and antique furniture from Prince Edward Island.
But the Craigs found hope through Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, who visited twice—first to clean out the severely damaged basement, then (with Paul Brandt) to help the family pack up and move to temporary housing.
“It’s very dirty work, but it’s also very rewarding,” Paul said.
This kind of assistance for disaster victims across Canada is only possible through the donations, prayers and volunteer efforts of generous Canadians like you.
“You’re Angels from Heaven”—Chuck’s Story
When the Highwood River overflowed its banks and caused record flooding in High River, Alberta, Chuck Murphy’s basement filled with six feet of muddy, reeking flood waters.
“Stuff was just floated and tossed around and dumped in different rooms and upside down,” Chuck said. “I’d never seen anything like it.”
As his neighborhood flooded, Chuck was forced to wade through three feet of water to safety. And when the water finally receded, he was shocked by what he found in his basement-appliances, electronics and computers, furniture and the interior were destroyed.
Chuck asked Samaritan’s Purse for help.
“Within a couple days, they were here,” he recalled. A team of volunteers, clad in Samaritan’s Purse orange t-shirts, set to work. From tearing out drywall and ruined carpet to sanitizing the house, they prepared Chuck’s home for restoration-all at no charge to him.
And their efforts were only possible because of the generosity of people like you.
“I’d be dead in the water if it weren’t for you guys,” Chuck said. “I have no idea how we would have gotten to this stage without Samaritan’s Purse. It’s been fantastic.”
In the midst of devastation, shock, and grief across southern Alberta, the prayers, financial support and volunteered time of people like you ministered to devastated homeowners.
“You’re angels from Heaven,” Chuck said. “You really are.”
Despair was right around the corner—Melanie’s Story
Melanie Walker was able to keep her composure. Until she started talking about the people swarming through her home in Calgary’s Bowness neighbourhood, that is.
“These are ugly jobs and people come in with smiles and do them,” she said, while orange-shirted Samaritan’s Purse volunteers scraped mud from the Bow River off her back yard patio.
Melanie and her husband Tobin arrived home from work on June 21, 2013 to find massive rains had swollen the Bow well beyond it’s normal size. The river, which flows behind their bungalow, was starting to reach between houses on her quiet crescent, so they knew trouble was coming.
But then a helicopter flew low overhead with an urgent megaphone message for everyone: get out now and take nothing.
Melanie and Tobin had just enough time to pack a suitcase, grab their cat Mikka and then take off. Floodwaters poured in, reaching the bottom of their living room window before finally receding. They came home to find nothing but destroyed furniture, mud-caked floors and ruined clothing.
Thousands of homes in Calgary, High River, Medicine Hat and other communities throughout southern Alberta were similarly damaged by the massive rain, which caused rivers to overflow and affect the lives of more than 100,000.
Despair was right around the corner until a Samaritan’s Purse assessor arrived to find out if they wanted assistance. Melanie and Tobin agreed and soon the furniture was taken out, soaked drywall and insulation removed and floors and walls sanitized to prevent the growth of dangerous mould. Thanks to donations from generous Canadians like you, the house was ready to be rebuilt at no cost to the Walkers.
Your donations enabled Samaritan’s Purse to work with churches and others to round up hundreds of eager volunteers who provide physical, emotional and spiritual care to despairing flood victims.
“We lost some stuff, but it’s changed our spirits to see these folks come out and help,” Melanie said, struggling to keep her composure. “I’m grateful.”
Volunteer help, not home damage, makes them cry—Liz and Jim’s Story
Liz and Jim Springer lived in Calgary’s Bowness neighborhood, just a five-minute walk from the Bow River for 30 years without any flood damage to their home. All that changed on June 21, 2013 when the raging river left six feet of muddy, dirty water in their basement.
“When I saw the flooding, I thought if my main floor is spared, we’re good. So I did my happy dance,” said Liz, who works in Calgary’s energy industry.
A deluge of rain caused the Bow and several other rivers in southern Alberta to flood, affecting some 100,000 people in Calgary, High River, Medicine Hat and several more communities. Thousands of homes were either destroyed or severely damaged.
There was no way the Springers could clear all mud and damage out of their partially-finished basement. So an offer of help from Samaritan’s Purse was eagerly accepted and a crew of orange-shirted volunteers took over, removing everything and sanitizing it to prevent the growth of dangerous mold.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” said Jim, who is still recovering from a stroke suffered five years ago. He choked up at the thought of the help he and Liz received. “For Samaritan’s Purse to spray our basement at no charge is incredible.”
“Neither of us have shed a tear over the house,” Jim said, “but the volunteers are still coming and that’s what makes us cry.”
“The definition of a Good Samaritan”—Warren’s Story
Warren Drunken Chief, a carpenter who lives on the Siksika Nation reserve east of Calgary, never thought the flooding Bow River would rise high enough to reach his home.
“We stood on the bridge over the water and were mesmerized,” he said, “but we still didn’t think it would hit our house.”
It did. Flooding the valley and countless homes of the Siksika people, the Bow River was one of several waterways throughout southern Alberta that overflowed their banks and devastated homeowners in Siksika, Calgary, Medicine Hat, High River and other communities.
“We lost almost all our belongings, first to the flood and then to the black mold,” Warren said. “All the curtains, couches and beds are gone-everything turned green.”
The family set up camp just up the hill from their home. And four weeks later, they were still there, while volunteers coordinated by Samaritan’s Purse helped prepare their home for rebuild.
“I was fortunate to have met Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team,” Warren said. Rapid Response Team volunteer chaplains trained by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, came to minister to the emotional and spiritual needs of the Siksika Nation during the crisis.
“They sang Gospel songs and gave us the gift of a Bible,” Warren said.
As for Samaritan’s Purse,”the volunteers walked into our house, and just like that, everything was out.”
From mudding out their basement and portions of their main floor, to tearing out ruined drywall, to spraying the home to prevent mould, Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief was there to aid the Siksika people.
“Not many people in the world would come out and do that for you,” Warren said. “It’s almost unheard of…You guys are the definition of a Good Samaritan.”
“We thought the town would never be rebuilt”—Jake’s Story
In 2005, Jake and Marg Woloshchuk watched flood waters of the Highwood River creep up the driveway of their High River, Alberta home, but go no further. That was definitely not the case in late June 2013, when torrential rains caused the Highwood and several other rivers in southern Alberta to spill their banks.
This time the swollen river poured through their home, filling up most of their basement with mud and frigid water.
“If you were standing there when the water came, you would have been washed away,” recalled Jake.
Jake and Marg were fortunate not to get caught and require a helicopter rescue like some of their neighbours. They left for an 8:30 a.m. and 15 minutes later, the first three feet of water entered their bungalow.
“We thought the whole town would never be rebuilt,” he added.
But their thinking changed after they called Samaritan’s Purse and asked for help. The next day, an assessor arrived to see what needed to be done and not long after that, a team of orange-shirted volunteers invaded their home.
They cleaned out the mud, removed waterlogged furniture and possessions and tore out soaked drywall and insulation. Then the volunteers power-washed the basement and sprayed it to prevent the growth of dangerous mould. All at no charge to the Woloshchuks and all because of generous donations from Canadians like you.
Using equipment and expertise from Samaritan’s Purse, volunteers helped hundreds of flooded home owners in High River, Calgary, Medicine Hat and the Siksika First Nation east of Calgary. The flooding is the worst in Alberta’s history and sparked the largest Canadian disaster response in the history of Samaritan’s Purse.
“The support of volunteers has been tremendous, especially from Samaritan’s Purse,” said Jake. “Samaritan’s Purse stood out, no question about that.”
“We were alone until you came to help”— Melvina’s Story
In 27 years of living on the Siksika Nation reserve in southern Alberta, Melvina Henry’s home in the Bow River valley never flooded. But on June 21, as she helped sandbag homes in danger of flooding on another part of the reserve, Melvina received a call-the water was just feet from her front door.
“By the time we got home, it was too late,” she said. “In 15 minutes, the water filled our basement and was an inch from the first floor.”
Melvina and her husband, Larry, were renovating their home and had moved the majority of their possessions to the basement. Almost everything was submerged in reeking, muddy floodwaters.
“We had a lot of valuables down there,” Melvina said with tears in her eyes. “Rugs, jewelry, pottery, pictures…The only thing that has kept me and my family strong is prayer and the help of Samaritan’s Purse.”
As Melvina recalled the treasures that were damaged, volunteers coordinated by Samaritan’s Purse and funded by the generosity of people like you were working hard in the background.
They mudded out her home, carried load after load of mud-soaked items from the basement, and sorted through possessions that could be salvaged. Ruined televisions, bed frames, mattresses, and clothing were strewn across the lawn and ready to be thrown away.
“It’s been so hard.” Melvina said, “There are many memories that we’ve lost. It’s too overwhelming.”
But even in the midst of devastation, she was encouraged.
“I’m really thankful for all of you,” she said of volunteers and donors who are fueling the relief effort in southern Alberta. “We were alone until you came to help. You guys are kind, patient, and helpful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“No help and little hope”—Candy’s Story
I had heard about Samaritan’s Purse and was aware of the some of the work they do but never thought that I would be on the receiving end of their ministry. Then the 2013 Alberta flood left 7 feet of water and sewer back up in our basement and our insurance company rejected our claim for coverage.
My husband and I were all by ourselves with no help and little hope. We headed down into the basement and started hauling up mud and water-saturated contents. We had no power and the work was back-breaking. Then my husband fell ill with respiratory problems; a victim of the horrid conditions we were exposed to. I was at a complete loss.
Then my sister suggested Samaritan’s Purse may be able to help us. We contacted them and within 48 hours they had assessed our situation, put together an action plan to deal with our flood damaged house and offered us Spirit-inspired words of comfort and hope. Less than 24 hours later a full team was on site and hard at work. Each volunteer was filled with compassion, empathy and a confident hope that results would be achieved.
We prayed together, we worked together, we had lunch and water breaks together. Within two days our entire basement had been gutted, washed out and sanitized…a complete mud-out. We were ready to move onto the next step in the process of reclaiming our home.
The team members of Samaritan’s Purse were for me and my husband the face and hands of Christ embodied Jesus’ presence in our lives. They will be my friends for the rest of my life. Through its vital ministry Samaritan’s Purse has given us our home back, but more importantly a new hope and renewed appreciation of Jesus’ presence in our lives. Thank you Samaritan’s Purse!
– Candy (and Jeff) Neumann—Medicine Hat, AB
“You People are Angels”— Jill’s Story
Amidst the nightmare, Jill Hodgins found a reason for hope. That reason wore orange shirts and, with her blessing, swarmed through her flood-damaged home in Calgary’s Bowness neighbourhood.
Jill’s home backs onto the Bow River and on June 20, 2013 massive region-wide rainfall caused it and many other southern Alberta rivers to overflow, damaging thousands of houses in Calgary, High River, Medicine Hat and many other communities. At least 100,000 people were affected by the flooding, which was the worst in the province’s history.
Jill’s home was particularly hard hit. Orange-shirted volunteers, organized by Samaritan’s Purse and using equipment from one of our three Disaster Relief Unit tractor trailers, tore up flood-damaged floors, dismantled a very wobbly rear deck, cut away soaked drywall and insulation, then sanitized to prevent dangerous mould. Thanks to the support of donors like you, all of this was done at no cost to the homeowner.