When Chestermere became a city over seven months ago, many residents were concerned that by taking on that title we would lose our small town feel. Many knew right away that it would not, but in the after math of the recent floods, I think even the doubters have been converted.
In today’s society it can be a rare thing to see. Neighbour helping neighbour. Total strangers taking time away from their lives to help someone in need. Businesses taking their staff away from their day to day jobs to help people they have never met before. These are a few of the amazing things that happened in our city during the recent flooding.
When the call went out for people to share their stories of the flood, these remarkable tales of compassion, support and caring came pouring in. From large clean-up crews being organized to small acts of kindness by way of preparing food or doing laundry. In times of crisis, friends are made where strangers once were.
Heather Bailey of Chestermere shared this story:
“Jeffrey Schiller from Eternity Construction reached out via Facebook offering to inspect roofs that may have been damaged in the hail storms last week. I decided to take him up on his offer – we’ve been so busy cleaning up the damage in the basement that my husband just hasn’t had the time to go up on the roof and check things out. Jeffrey (also a Chestermere resident) stopped by on his way home (after what I’m assuming was a long, busy day at his current job site) and did a thorough inspection of our two storey home’s roof. He took the time to explain what he found (thankfully, no damage) and seemed so genuinely happy to just help out. I was so relieved to hear all is well with our roof, and so incredibly thankful that he would take time to stop by. So here’s a shout out to Jeffrey Schiller of Eternity Construction. Definitely one of Chestermere’s angels”.
Several Chestermere residents wrote in telling of a magical group that had come together during the flood that call themselves “Chestermeres Angels”. Daiana (no last name provided) created the group and says, “We moved here in October 2014 from Calgary. I started this but it only started with trying to feed a few families that were in need and to teach my kids to be humbled and help others. Coming from parents that immigrated at a young age, I grew up with a close knit family with a mother that always welcomed friends and neighbours home. We grew up with the message that you never denied a person the dignity of a hello or a plate of food. So when you ask why I felt the need… it was simply on how I was raised. Secondly I think nothing ever happens for an accident, maybe there was a reason I did not get flooded… maybe just gods plan for me to help others”.
“Chestermeres Angels started when I posted on ILC (I Love Chestermere) with a comment that I would offer meals for some families anonymously. This was something I decided would be my part to the community, everything was to be arranged through private PM (private message). I got a few the first day which was manageable but then the very next morning my inbox had more requests and I thought what am I going to do. So I reached out to the community with the idea to allow others to cook a meal anonymously and I would pick up and drop it off to the family. As to how many….. it is well over the 100 people mark… I never really kept count other than through my posts on ILC which has since expired…. I know counting through addresses… we have helped 34 homes”, says Daiana. She goes on to say, “Chestermeres Angels started with two – myself and my husband, but we ended up having hundreds in support, it was overwhelming the love we had. We had many that donated once, some continued on their own to offer more through the flood resource page, some were repeats, and some I could not have lived without. This is what Chestermeres Angels is about it inspired others to rise. We would have not been successful without others. I always talked to everyone about ONE LOVE… it just two words.. simple words but very significant. I have three loves, one for my family, one for my community and one for humanity… which equates to loving everyone. We do plan on keeping Chestermeres Angels open but I am not sure what it will look like. The community will dictate that as needs come forward. I very much hope that it will be clearer as the flood help dies down”.
There were also several people that sang the praises of Synergy for their organization of mass cleanups and helping residents get in touch with the right organizations depending on what their specific need was.
Synergy’s Executive Director Patty Sproule provided this statement, “SYNERGY’s mission is to foster youth and community development. We are passionate about supporting the Chestermere and area community in any way we are able. One of the values we hold most dear is that of collaboration and we often take a coordinating role on behalf of multiple organizations so that they can be free to do what they do best. As soon as the flood occurred, we knew we wanted and needed to help and it wasn’t long before we connected with a number of volunteer organizations and individuals who felt the same. Simultaneously, we became aware of the extensive damage incurred on residents homes and could only begin to imagine the stress that they were facing with a long recovery ahead. The City of Chestermere asked SYNERGY to take on the responsibility of coordinating Volunteer Outreach Services and we were pleased to fulfill that role”.
Sproule went on to say, “Amongst our staff/volunteer workforce, many of the individuals were either dealing with flooding in their own homes or those of friends or family while spending very long hours helping folks they had never met before. To say I am proud to be associated with such a dedicated group of people would be an understatement. The quote of the week, by far, coming from flood affected residents went something like this: ‘I’m sure there were residents way worse off than us – I am just grateful that we are all OK’. I lost count after hearing at least two dozen unrelated people say that very same thing. I am awed by the resilience of our community members”.
Synergy reported that residents formally assisted with over 40 homes with things such as removal & disposal of drywall, debris, carpet, tile, furniture & damaged goods, cleaning & sanitizing and sandbags. There were approximately 122 volunteers that put in 737 volunteer hours during the organized clean-up days.
Mentioned in a previous article there were other groups that organized to help. The Knights of Columbus hosted a free BBQ the day of the flood to feed those that had been flooded or had been helping impacted residents thorough the storm. Reid Built Homes management and staff stopped their usual day to day lives and coordinated debris removal from residents that had basements flood. The newly created Chestermere’s Farmers Market also had a collection jar out to collect funds for those impacted by the flood.
Even the youngest residents of our city looked at the situation and asked themselves what they could do to help. 8 year old Daniel Boghean decided that he was going to jump in and help out. Daniels mom, Brenda, explained “our house had very minor damage from the flood (just a small amount of water came in one of our basement windows). We consider ourselves extremely lucky that the damage wasn’t worse. Daniel is a very kind and compassionate soul and I am extremely proud of him! He always puts others ahead of himself and this isn’t the first time he has raised money for local charities (he has done fundraising for the Chestermere food bank as well) He really wanted to set up a lemonade stand today and told me that “he doesn’t need the money, so he wants to give the money to someone that does” He raised $68.65. He is determined to make a difference in our community!”
We know that there will always be those unsung heroes. Those that do things behind the scenes, in secret that no one knows about except for those directly impacted – and to you, we also say thank you!
Chestermere may now be referred to as a city, but that small town feel lives on.