Photo: Frances Desabrais (second from left) and three of her children at the dedication of their new home. They were ecstatic to move into one half of a duplex built in part with your donations, after their home was destroyed in the 2013 flood in High River, AB. “When they gave me the news that they were going to build me this house, I had to pinch myself to make sure that it was real.” Photo: MDS
Families moving back home
Thanks to you, people like the Desabrais family have a home to call their own again.
Because of your support, CLWR was able to partner with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) and other organizations to clean, repair or rebuild homes in locations including High River, Calgary, Black Diamond and Medicine Hat.
Three homes in High River were dedicated and handed over to their grateful owners in emotional ceremonies at the end of April. Learn more about these families and the rebuilding process below.
Find a PDF version of this article by clicking HERE.
Your gifts don’t build houses. They build homes.
Rev. Daranne Harris, pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in Calgary, participated in the home dedications for three families in High River. Here are her reflections:
“You haven’t just built us a house, but a home. You have no idea how much it means to me to be able to welcome our friends and family into our home, to be able to once again cook for them in my kitchen.”
On April 24, three families in High River received keys to their new homes. This occasion was celebrated at dedication services attended by family, friends, spiritual leaders, community members and volunteers. In freshly painted living rooms, on front porches and atop new sod we prayed, we sang and we gave thanks together for this blessed new beginning.
It has been two years since unprecedented floodwaters rose in the town, destroying many properties and caking the earth in cement-like mud. Finally, these homeowners are able to return. Your donations to CLWR, in partnership with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), helped make this possible.
MDS works with the community to identify people in need. Caring is at the heart of this venture. Together with homeowners and local contractors they plan and build modest houses that meet the unique needs and situations of those who will live there.
Volunteers young and old travelled from as far as Pennsylvania to help. One young boy proudly pointed out the closet doors he had installed. Another volunteer showed up with a giant tray of cinnamon buns to share. Others stitched beautiful quilts that were given to family members for their new home.
To read an article in the High River Times about the dedications, please click here.
Gratitude: Frances Desabrais presents MDS staff member and CLWR partner Harold Friesen with a plaque that reads “Love.” “Sometimes thank you just isn’t enough,” she said. Photo: MDS
You’re helping communities come together: John and Polly Claydon share the duplex with the Desabrais family. Their 104-year-old home, which was damaged in the flood, previously sat on the lot. Their lot was rezoned for multi-family use, which made it possible to build the duplex and share the space. Photo: MDS
The duplex where the Desabrais and Claydon families now live: complete, thanks to your support! A house for the Anderson family was also dedicated that day. Photo: MDS
Amazing donors, amazing volunteers
You can be proud to know that your donations worked in partnership with talented, hard-working volunteers. Peter and Susan Thiessen, two Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers, reflect on finishing three homes in time for their dedications:
April 24, 2015: We have just completed a two-week sprint to the finish. We had a house and a duplex to finish as these families were so ready to move back into “their” homes. Having been without a home for 22 months was very long and exhausting.
During our first week here we realized that we would need many hands to complete these three new homes. Our volunteers were incredible. One couldn’t sleep one night and went to work at 4 a.m., and was almost reported by a neighbour to the police.
Some of the other volunteers caught the spirit and went to work at 6 a.m. as well as the evening shift. A 67-year-old volunteer shovelled dirt under decks for a good chunk of the day. As the director was local to the area, he called in favours from friends, two local Bible Study groups, sub-trades, equipment companies (Bobcat) and even the office staff. The cook gave up her assistant, and the Mennonite Disaster Service Chair of Region V (Canada) and his wife came in for four days of labour.
The local home fellowships groups came on Thursday and shovelled topsoil and placed sod to get the place ready for the dedications. Others cleaned the whole house of all its construction dust and dirt.
Our faithful volunteers finished painting baseboard and trim, and washed the exterior. What a transformation! It was beautiful to see how God orchestrated the process by providing the right volunteer skills, the spirit to work the extra hours and the sheer energy. Volunteers were reminded of the significance of the week and responded.
But nothing is as rewarding as the dedications, and we had three in one day. We got to reap the benefit of all the hard work done by others before us. So thanks to fellow volunteers who gave of themselves without seeing the final reward.
The closing prayer at the dedications had these thoughts:
“To the God of creation, who made the heavens and the rivers and then allow them to take their natural course, we stand in awe. Man has chosen to live next to the river of life, and then you allow it to become angry. You are beyond comprehension. But just when we think you are hiding your face from us, you come and bring hope, healing, new life and new joy.”
Psalms 40:1-2: I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Amen”
A final note: The next day when we went back to see Ms. Frances Desabrais, we found her totally moved in. She shared a story with us that when she went to check on her son’s room the next morning, to her amazement it was totally cleaned up and even the bed was made with his new quilt. She then called him at work and asked what happened. His answer was: “I got hit over the head with a new house.” Isn’t that priceless?
Your donations support the work of talented, hard-working volunteers. Top: Work on the duplex. Bottom: Doug Janzen and Joe Blank helped frame a flood-affected basement in High River. Joe knows about CLWR because CLWR sponsored him to come to Canada from Germany 61 years ago! Photos by MDS and CLWR/K.Schroeder
Helping people cope
Your donations also helped fund free counselling at the High River Counselling Centre to help people cope with the psychological impact of the disaster.
Three counsellors have been seeing clients about flood recovery as well as clients with issues seen at any type of counselling centre.
Although CLWR’s funding ended in March 2015, this important service is here to stay. Two years past the disaster, people are still feeling the financial burden of refinishing their homes while they try to secure government disaster relief funding. People have been too busy physically recovering to emotionally recover, and they are starting to burn out from the strain.
The centre has secured other funding to provide free counselling up to March 2016, after which they will move towards a sliding scale subsidy model to continue to provide local, affordable counselling.
Even before the flood, the community had identified a need for mental health services in High River. Your support helped get the ball rolling.
To read coverage about the centre in the High River Times, please click on the following stories:
“Free counselling centre to open in High River”
“Local counselling centre celebrates first year in High River”
Congregations reaching out
Photo: Pastor Klaus Ohlhoff and congregation chair Esther Dyck in the sanctuary of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, High River. With your support, Pastor Ohlhoff served as a resource for flood-affected people and those delivering aid in hard-hit High River. CLWR/K.Schroeder
Your gifts helped St. Peter Lutheran Church in Medicine Hat provide food vouchers and bus passes following the flood to those unable to return to their damaged homes.
Your donations also helped Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in High River connect flood-affected people with resources and emotional support and connect people with volunteer opportunities related to flood recovery. The pastor there served as a vital liaison between CLWR and the High River community, including local leadership and community organizations.