Start by parking your car where you can find space in the neighborhood.
Sprint to the Community Support Centre to pick up your supplies (gloves, mask) before they run out
Run to the address that you’ve been given. It’s probably about a kilometer away.
Try to find the homeowner. If they are not there, continue to the next house that could be in need of help.
Obstacle 1: Slip, sliding, away. Head down to the basement filled with 3 inches of water. No matter that you forgot your headlamp.
Start peeling off completely soaked drywall and throw in basket. Haul up to open window. Empty, repeat.
Obstacle 2: To the dump, dump, dump. You have been relieved of drywall duty. Head upstairs and out to the window. Bag wet drywall bits and insulation. Throw into wheelbarrow and cart out front. Dispose of in dumpster.
Detour! Run to find the nearest porta pottie down the street.
Run back to house and homeowner thanks you for you help and sends you off with a cookie.
Go back to Community Support Station and get another address.
Run a kilometer in the other direction to find building.
Obstacle 3: Dry wall destruction. Go down to the basement of condo building with sewer backup. Hold nose. Score and hammer drywall. Remove. Repeat. Haul full bin up the stairs. Breathe fresh air.
Walk back to car. Being muddy is a badge of honour. Since the City wants you to conserve water, skip the shower and do it all again tomorrow.
You’ve won the race in the minds of the people that you have helped today.
Well Calgary, you have impressed me again. I’ve just finished the two days of the best volunteer experiences in my lifetime.
This morning, my new friend Penny picked me up and we headed back to Bowness. We got our assignment at the Sportsplex and headed to the address. The homeowner was not around so we went down the street in search of opportunity. We found Joanne, who was emptying her basement. She had a lot of help already, but appreciated the extra hands. I finally got the chance to get dirty! I got to muck a basement. There was a few inches of water down there. The water went past the ceiling and into the first floor. As a result, the drywall came off really easily, but was heavy due to being waterlogged. We shoved the mess out the basement window. It was quite the experience.
I returned home with time enough to grab a snack. Emily left a message saying she needed help and equipment in Sunnyside. I packed up a shovel, crowbar, garbage bags and wheelbarrow. We were cleaning the basement of a friend’s condo building that was the victim of a sewer backup. It came halfway up the wall. This was harder to deal with than the previous assignment. The bottom part of the drywall came off easy, but the top foot was dry and needed to be scored and ripped off. There were no windows, so everything had to be hauled up the stairs. They needed a generator to power the lights. Hard manual labour, but I quite enjoyed it.
The highlights for today:
Meeting one very grateful homeowner in Bowness
Removing the ceiling of the basement and having water pour out
Getting covered with mud, and…
Getting caught on camera by Shaw while visiting their water station
Meanwhile in Sunnyside…
A family walked by offering us free chili and peanut butter and jam sandwiches
A lady pulled up in her SUV and offered us sandwiches, juice, fruit, carrots and snacks
Shaw person walked by offering us free flashlights
People who I just met treating me like family
Finishing the afternoon event with a beer in hand on the sidewalk. Bylaws drove by. CPS drove by, rolled down the window and chatted. Beer drinking continued.
Back to work tomorrow! If I wasn’t working, I would volunteer again.
I’ll admit I didn’t know what I was getting into when I showed up at McMahon Stadium this morning. One thing, I knew it would be an adventure. I baked some carrot muffins last night and thawed some GF banana bread from the freezer and took it with me. It took some time to organize; we all had to fill out an information sheet (waiver). We lined up, got our forms signed and waited to board the buses. They couldn’t accommodate all the people on the buses so they had us split into groups of 100 and given an address. My destination was Bowness. I met a random group of people and we piled into a vehicle for the drive there.
When we got there it was a bit of chaos. Those in charge were not expecting 100 volunteers that were not residents of the community to show up. But people spoke up and asked for what they needed.
10 people to help the military with administrative duties until 10pm
Helping a homeowner at xxx address to clean up
Helping resettle evacuated residents of a seniors home
The local Sportsplex was set up as a central command centre. There was a place to register volunteers, an area for those who need help to pick up supplies. And a ton of donations. Rona brought in a ton of pails and garbage cans. I helped offload donated clothing and rags that a local chiropractic office had collected.
Our first assignment of the day was to help a homeowner cleanup. We entered the red zone. The red zone is an area where it has not been cleared for the evacuees to return home. Traffic into the affected areas is controlled by police. There is no power, gas, and possibly water. Nevertheless, in areas where the water had cleared, homeowners returned to start the cleanup. As we drove to the affected area, I could not help but notice all the drywall, furniture and personal effects on people’s front lawns. We passed a house with “no power, no gas” and a cat sitting in the window. The roads were either muddy or dusty. We passed by a building that housed some 911 equipment. It was surrounded by sandbags and booms. When we arrived, we were put to work cleaning with bleach and drying items just moved out of the basement. The guys were helping with the heavy lifting of the appliances out of the basement. Then they gutted and removed the drywall.
After that assignment, our motley crew went in search of more work. Everyone we passed by seemed to have all the help they needed. So we went back to the Sportsplex to help out.
Our next assignment came when one of our group helped a lady who was shell shocked and not sure of the help she needed. So six of us went over to her house and helped her clear out the garage. There was a lot of stuff in there, most of it was mud soaked and we took it out. She really struggled with throwing out her possessions.
Calgarians are exceptional. In all my years of volunteering, I have not seen a grassroots movement this large. Let me list some of the high points:
2500 volunteers showed up at McMahon Stadium for their assignments (they were planning to sign up 600)
Mayor Nenshi was there, firing up the crowd and thanking everyone for their help
One person stood up organized a random group of people. We counted to 100 as a group so we could be given an address to go to
Don’t be a Nenshi noun! (Don’t be an idiot)
How can I help? Was the motto for the day.
I met a guy from England that has been in Calgary for 3 weeks who volunteered. He started a job at the UofC. I told him this isn’t what you would normally expect in town.
I made at least 5-6 new friends today. One of them is picking me up tomorrow to go back to Bowness
Shaw set up a station to hand out food and snacks for the volunteers on a street in Bowness
A homeowner who was flooded, set up a volunteer registration and food station on her front lawn
Food trucks were handing out free food at McMahon.
The volunteer station on Bow Crescent was happy to receive the carrot muffins and GF banana bread
The organizers made sure the volunteers were well fed and watered in the community
A shout out to my new friends, Hugh, Rick, Faye, Penny, Pheobe and Sandy
The lack of formal organization compared to the amount of stuff that got done was truly amazing. There is a lot of humanity and compassion in Calgary, that shows up in situations like this. People just took the initiative. So many donations, in the way of supplies and food for the volunteers.One person in our group asked how the homeowner was feeling, and paused to listen. Some homeowners were grateful for the number of volunteers that spontaneously showed up.
You too can help. Visit the page yychelps.ca, check out calgary.ca for volunteers ops, find friends that have just returned home and see if they need help, or show up at one of the community muster stations. As for me, I will be headed back to Bowness tomorrow morning. Then back to work on Wednesday. I’m proud to be a resident of this fine city.