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Locals lend a helping hand in High River

Posted on July 16, 2013 by Taber Times

Actions speak louder than words.

That time-honoured phrase could have served as a motto for the group of close to 300 Taber volunteers that descended on the flood-ravaged community of High River on Friday to help with recovery efforts.

Departing early, a convoy of buses and trucks left Taber packed with tools and manpower.

“We met at the Stake Centre at about 5:30 Friday morning. We were working through Mormon Helping Hands, which is a group associated with the LDS Church,” said Mark Baldry, a trip organizer.

“They provide emergency relief throughout the world for disasters. They have an incredible organization that is very good at this, and it’s all volunteers.”

Buses used by the group were donated by First Student.

“That was a huge donation. It’s about $600 per bus, and we took seven buses. That was very kind of them. We were going to rent them, and then when they found out what it was about, they said we could have the buses and they were excited about what we were doing. We supplied drivers from our group that have, or are, driving for them now,” said Baldry.

“We took up a lot of our own tools. We had all of our hand tools — shovels, rakes, and Helping Hands provided lots of different things for us. We took up about 50 wheelbarrows. We were quite well equipped. In addition to the buses, we had four or five trucks.”

Both young and old came out to lend a hand with flood relief in the community, added Baldry.

“It was amazing, the cross-section of people that were with us, from all walks of life, from 13 to 75 years old. Once we got up there, we had already pre-determined groups of about 13, and we’d send these teams out for different work orders. We did lots of good stuff for people, it was really quite an amazing thing, in two parts — one, that we were able to pull that together and get that many people to give up a day’s work and go and serve others.”

Flood damage in the community is almost beyond belief, according to Baldry.

“Even more amazing was to actually go and see High River. This is a month since the flood, and it’s still a terrible mess. You can’t really appreciate it unless you go there. It’s really terrible what has happened, and what water can do to a place. There were some extremely grateful people up in High River. Everywhere you go there were signs thanking volunteers, God bless you, those kinds of things were all over the town.”

Baldry reported parts of the community remain inundated with flood waters and debris, making clean-up efforts more difficult.

“Across the street from where we were, the front yard still had two feet of silt. It was just unbelievable. The areas we were working in were terrible. We were working on houses, and ripping out drywall, but those areas, a lot of the silt had been bulldozed out of there and readied for people to help with houses, where as some of the other streets were still under — in fact there’s parts that are still under water. It’s hard to imagine how a river that’s not that big can cover an entire very large town. It was just covered — it was amazing.”

The relief group consisted mostly of LDS Church members from throughout the Taber area.

“It’s really quite amazing we were able to put this together in such short order. Most of the people were from our church, but some weren’t. It was just a really nice group from the Taber Stake, which is Taber, Grassy Lake, Barnwell, Vauxhall, Enchant, Hays area — this whole area around here. It was really quite heartwarming,” said Baldry.

In Baldry’s estimation, volunteer efforts are vital if High River is to get back to some semblance of normalcy before the end of the year.

“It was really wonderful to be part of that, and the organizers were very happy with the turn-out, and the orderly fashion in which everybody listened and did what they were asked. Some of our people were asked to go and help with the Salvation Army to sort donations, there’s just mountains of donations. All this stuff has to be done, and if volunteers don’t do it, then professionals have to do it — I just think it would take well over a year if you don’t have volunteers.”

Although it was often a sobering experience observing flood damage, Baldry also noted the sense of satisfaction the group earned from volunteering in the community.

“It was wonderful to see people drive hours to go help total strangers, but you didn’t feel like a total stranger, you just felt like you were in Taber doing stuff for your neighbour. It was really a wonderful feeling, and people were very grateful. I think the people who went had a certain need as well. I think most everybody in Taber wants to do something. Especially when you get there and see the absolute devastation. It’s not just their homes, it’s their businesses, their place of work — everything was destroyed. You just wonder how some of these folks will ever get their lives back together again.”

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