'I'm not going to abandon them': Neighbours lift each other up with more rain on the way
Abbotsford’s Dan Dennill has made a living helping people clean up devastating damage.
So when he started to get calls about the floodwaters receding on parts of the Sumas Prairie, and homeowners needing help, he decided to step up.
“I was always told if a neighbour is in need, then you go and help,” Dennill, the CEO of Surreal Cleaning Solutions said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do in our own community.”
He takes us to see home after home after home.
The stories are similar: heartbreaking and at the same time, hopeful.
Near a squiggle in the Sumas, we meet Paulette Johnson.
She’s sitting at the bottom of her staircase, sorting through a box of what looks like children’s clothing, a smile on her face.
“Attitude means a lot and I am thankful for what I do have,” she tells me.
All around her, there’s utter destruction left by the flood.
Everything below a metre or so has been wiped out.
“Where do you start? You just put one foot in front of the other,” Johnson says. “Tell yourself you’re tough.”
Dennill found her by word-of-mouth, he tells me.
First, it’s demolition and getting the water out, then rinsing mud and silt, sanitizing, and getting heat and fans in.
If the homeowners don’t have savings, Dennill’s crew somehow still gets paid.
“I don’t say no. people don’t have money. It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to abandon them,” he says.
Neither is Wes Gmur, 80 years young and volunteering with Dennill’s team.
He steers us to his childhood farm, now owned by the Meier family.
“Got a lot of good friends out here,” Gmur says, “and they’re in trouble.”
Water didn’t make it to the first floor, we learn, though Chelsea Meier’s basement, which was full to the rafters, she shows us, has just gone from disaster to dry.
Her grandmother’s china and just-canned peaches somehow survived standing up.
Her six-by-twelve-foot snooker table is stuck on its side.
Out front neighbours come by with a car full of homemade snacks.
I ask her what else the family needs.
“Just support,” she says. “Hands, coveralls, boots, that’s the only thing I can think of.”
More storms are on the way.
Sandbags are available somewhere.
But on our drive we don’t see any being set out quite yet.
“You don’t even know what to do with sandbags,” Meier tells me bluntly. “You can’t even tell where. (the water will come from). I don’t know.”
Back at the Johnsons', Paulette tells me she really hasn’t thought much the forecast.
There’s too much to do.
“I can’t change the future. I can only do what I can do today,” she says.
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