Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Help Southern Alberta

There are lots of ways to help out in Alberta right now! I'm frustrated because I'm limited by school, allergies, and physical limitations, but I'm trying to do what I can. Maybe this will give you some ideas for how you can help too.

YYC Helps is a website that's coordinating volunteer and donations requests. Needs seem to change from minute to minute, and they're on top of them.

The Volunteer Calgary site is similar, coordinating needs and offers.

Samaritan's Purse mobilizes mud-out units to go into communities in the days, weeks, and months following natural disasters, and stays after the media attention has died down. You can sign up for their volunteer database (physical labour or admin jobs) or make a tax deductible donation.

If you're on Twitter, check out the #yychelps hashtag for the most up-to-the-minute needs. For instance, NeighbourLink is in desperate need of pillows and bedding before 8 pm tonight. They also need hygiene items as they put together toiletry kits.

Most places are indicating that they're full up for clothing donations, although some places were still saying they need men's clothes. I'm sitting on a big pile of women's clothes (mostly business casual) I'm planning to donate to Dress for Success when I can get down there. (I have a final tomorrow! Eeep!)

There are two First Nations communities just south of Calgary, and they were hit really hard and are in need of food and water donations. A MLA in south Calgary, Jeff Wilson, is doing an amazing job of coordinating donation drop off/delivery out of his office. The city is asking people to stay off the roads as much as possible, but I was able to send a couple of boxes of food down with someone from the university who collected a whole bunch of stuff in the north west and drove it all down at once. That type of opportunity seems to form fairly quickly - stay tuned to social media for that kind of thing!

And on the topic of food, the Calgary Food Bank is busy feeding, and while donations are pouring in, there are never enough, and they need hands to help sort.

The town of Exshaw, west of Calgary, about half way to Banff, is a somewhat overlooked disaster zone. Mrs. Harper (Canada's equivalent to the First Lady) was in Exshaw today helping with cleanup, so they're getting more media attention now. I heard from a friend who has a friend who lives in Exshaw that 75% of the 400 homes have been damaged in some way, and they were (or maybe still are?) without power, running water, or any kind of sanitation. If you want to go in and help them mud-out, you have to first register with the Municipal District of Bighorn.

The city has guidelines on organizing your own clean up team, and a booklet on how to safely clean up a flood muddied house. The silt left behind can have all kinds of toxic things in it, and has to be totally removed. It's a crazy intense process - the pictures of the piles of debris along affected streets is mind-blowing.

And last, but I hope not least, our youth group/church is right by the university, where they have 400+ displaced people staying right now. We're hosting a bit of an open house on Saturday afternoon from 1-4pm for people to drop in, have a drink and a snack, and let their kids plays some games, do some crafts, and hopefully make some good memories in the midst of so much uncertainty.

If you want to help, there are dozens of ways - find your strengths and see what you can do! Clean up will be doing on for months, so don't forget about it after the news attention dies down!

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