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West Hants rallies around flooded families
Large clothing, food drive held to support those in need
When donations began to pour in for West Hants flood victims, resident Leslie Porter was not surprised by the community’s generosity.
She’s witnessed it time and again since the pandemic.
Within two days, Porter, along with fellow West Hants Caremongers and partner organizations, managed to collect, sort through and distribute piles of clothing, food and household products, helping countless people in the wake of one of the worst flooding disasters in Hants County.
“It’s just so heart-warming that people want to do what they can for everybody,” said Porter, noting the community always pulls together to help.
Porter launched West
Hants Caremongers near the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as a way to foster a sense of community and help neighbours. Whether it was providing food, picking up groceries for immunocompromised individuals, or connecting people with resources, the group helped fill a vital role.
And when someone in the community falls on hard times, volunteers still rally to help fundraise, she said.
So, when the July 21-22 flooding occurred, the Caremongers wanted to help.
Porter said she wasn’t surprised by the desire to help but she was “overwhelmed” by the amount of quality donations. Some outfits still had price tags attached. Most items were like new.
Together with SchoolsPlus West Hants and the Family Resource Centre of West Hants, the group hosted a clothing and necessities drive for flood victims in early August, then opened it up to anyone who required extra help.
Located in the Windsor Elementary School gymnasium, rows of tables were stacked with clothing and household items while volunteers sorted, folded and rearranged products. Everything was free.
“The generosity of this community and people that do not have (much) but are
still giving back, even when they’re not in the bracket of income that they could possibly give, they’re still giving back and coming to help and volunteer and it just overwhelms me every time,” Porter said.
She said the flash flooding, which resulted in the death of four community members, has impacted everyone in some way.
“It’s affecting everybody. Not just the people that typically struggle every day,” said Porter.
Some people had insurance. Many did not, or, found out afterwards that their insurance won’t cover the damage, she said.
“People that have never had a crisis… didn’t know where to go or who to call so that I think is what I’m finding… during this crisis as compared to some others,” she noted.
PART OF THE SOLUTION
And with the housing shortage in Nova Scotia, Porter said many can’t return home due to the damages and are now desperate to have a roof over their head.
“I wish I could say we’re trying to help people find a place to live, but there’s really no place to go. Our hands are kind of tied,” said Porter.
“There was nothing before the flood.”
There’s even less now.
They have been listing rentals on the Caremongers Facebook page and trying to connect people with possible options, but Porter said it’s not an easy feat.
Emilie Smith, one of the SchoolsPlus facilitators, said even though the flooding didn’t happen during the school year, the impact is still being felt.
“It was just important for us to be a part of the solution for the community,” said Smith on why SchoolsPlus volunteered alongside Caremongers.
“We’ve heard from folks who were homeless, in tents, who were impacted, right up to people who owned their own home, who thought they had insurance, who lost everything and have to start over,” she said.
Smith hopes the fundraiser has helped alleviate some of the initial stress that flood victims have been feeling. She also hopes people will continue to be kind in the coming months.
“One thing we’ve noticed is emotions are really raw and running high and sometimes folks are operating on little sleep,” said Smith.
“I think over the coming
months and year, we will see folks who are under undue financial stress and other stress from this situation. I think just to be mindful that lots of folks are going to be going through things… so just be patient and kind to one another.”
RBC GIVING BACK
Royal Bank of Canada employees are helping contribute to local charities involved with flood relief efforts.
Jennifer Fisher, the senior manager of business operations for Atlantic, lives in Falmouth. She volunteered a few hours at the clothing drive.
“Being a resident, I’ve been watching this unfold and it’s just been so devastating and sad. This is just a way for us to help lessen the challenges that people are going through,” Fisher said.
“I can’t think of anything that has impacted the community like this has. This is just unprecedented.”
Her colleague Susan Nixon, the senior manager of market operations for Metro Halifax, resides in the city and said coming to Windsor to volunteer for a few hours was impactful.
“So this is one way of me giving back and feeling like I’m of some use, in some way, and helping out the community to get back on their feet,” Nixon said.
Through RBC’s community grant program, charities receive a $1,500 financial donation when employees volunteer a few hours of their time.
volunteers As of Aug. 3, RBC had donated time over two days, resulting in $3,000 for the Family Resource Centre of West Hants.
“That (grant program) runs until the end of August so we will try to do as many as we possibly can,” said Nixon, noting they’d like to help search and rescue and the
happen fire departments, if they to hold a fundraiser this month.
Like Porter, Smith said they were overwhelmed by the donations.
“It’s just mind-blowing. We still have people that are saying they didn’t have a chance to get things in and they’d like to help,” Smith said.
“I think there’s a pretty good chance that people are going to need help in the future
because we know that some folks are literally knee-deep in clean-up. We anticipate the need is still out there.”
Porter said anything remaining at the conclusion of Aug. 9 will be distributed among West Hants schools, the Family Resource Centre of West Hants, the POSSE Project, and other groups and organizations.
A Caremongers cheesecake Facebook fundraiser raised more than $4,000 to further help the community. Additionally, a number of individuals as well as the Brooklyn Garden Centre have been collecting furniture for Caremongers that will eventually be distributed.
Porter said everybody is still trying to absorb what happened, figure out “what they’ve lost and how they’re going to recover from that.”
She said they’ll likely host another similar event in the fall as people will be looking for winter clothing.
“We will probably do it again in a couple of months and the people will be a little more settled, maybe have a place to live, maybe have a place to put their clothes and a dresser.”