Free meals for families whose homes were damaged. Mental health and financial support to local farmers and businesses. Technical support for those affected and who are seeking critical information on shelter and resources.
These are just a few of the ways the more than $3.7 million received by the Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund is helping people and businesses in the community rebuild and heal after the disastrous November floods that destroyed homes, infrastructure, businesses, and farms, displacing thousands of people in Abbotsford and neighbouring communities.
In the days after the storm, the Abbotsford Community Foundation (ACF), the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) and the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) jointly established the fund, which provides grants to local agencies involved in the disaster relief effort, as well as businesses and farmers that have been affected by the flooding.
“We were blown away by the outpouring of donations and community support,” said Craig Toews, Vice President External at UFV. “Collectively, it was great to see how our fundraising partnership mobilized and quickly got to work, identifying gaps and allocating funds to where they were needed most.”
“Farmers were among the most impacted with severe damage to their land, buildings and equipment, as well as the significant loss of animals for some farmers,” added Katerina Anastasiadis, CEO of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted to ease the financial burden and provide resources to help affected farmers and businesses get up and running again.”
ACOC board directors have personally delivered cheques to create a personal connection.
“They have heard so much gratitude for the impact this has made,” said Anastasiadis.
The Abbotsford Chamber has activated its grant application portal where businesses and farmers can apply for up to $5,000 to aid in their recovery. To date, the ACOC has distributed grants to 40 businesses and farmers, and ACF has disbursed funds to 19 non-for-profit organizations.
One of those charities is Mamas for Mamas, which supports mothers and caregivers in crisis by providing ongoing financial support to individuals and families.
“As we continue to provide essentials and more to our Abbotsford families, we have been beyond grateful to receive support from the Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund to help families during the recovery,” said Celena Arthur, Director of Funding Development & Community Engagement at Mamas for Mamas.
Mamas for Mamas has donated everything from strollers to shelter to transportation for hundreds of families. They helped arrange a helicopter ride for a single dad and his young teenager caught in the mudslides.
“Mamas for Mamas helped us greatly by providing multiple forms of aid while my daughter and I traversed the challenges of getting home,” said that father. “They also provided support in the following weeks, checking in regularly and making sure we were well and offering any additional assistance they may have to offer.”
Another charity, the Crisis Centre of BC, aided locals by providing information about emergency shelters and services and ensuring the people they connected with felt heard and supported.
“What we’re specifically able to do is help people pinpoint and address their most current need, while scanning for emotional distress and suicide risk factors,” said Stacy Ashton, executive director of the Crisis Centre of BC.
At the Arnold Community Church, volunteers rallied to create a waste collection program with heavy equipment and an official waste site where people could dump their contaminated belongings. Their army of volunteers hauled over 220 dump truck loads amounting to 1.1 million pounds of garbage. The Church also mobilized a food hamper and free lunches for those who have lost their homes and are in transition.
“It warms our hearts every time we receive updates from the charities on how people in our city are being looked after and cared for,” said Wendy Neufeld, executive director at ACF. “In times like these, that generosity and empathy is inspiring.”
To apply for a disaster relief grant for your organization or business, please visit:
Charitable Organizations: https://abbotsfordcf.org/grants/disaster/apply/
Businesses and Farms: https://www.abbotsfordchamber.com/how-we-help/abbotsford-disaster-relief-fund/
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.