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A Place of Relief, Connection, and Hope: How the Parking Lot of Arnold Community Church Supported Local Residents During a Difficult Time

On Friday, November 12th, 2021, meteorologists warned of an incoming atmospheric river that would bring heavy rain to southern parts of BC. Little did the community of Arnold and the greater Sumas Prairie area realize the pending damage this atmospheric river would later cause. After multiple days of heavy rain, disaster struck early in the week of November 15th when the Nooksack River breached its bank and water came flooding into the community of Arnold. On top of the incoming Nooksack River water, the local pump station was unable to move water out of the area due to high Fraser River water levels. It wasn’t long until Arnold and surrounding areas began flooding at extreme levels. At its peak, some homeowners in Arnold experienced 3 to 5 feet of water while higher elevation areas received about 18 inches of water. By later that week, the flooding had subsided in Arnold, and residents were able to return and see the destruction the water left behind.

       

Identifying a Need and Acting Quick

The residents of Arnold were overwhelmed with the damage caused and the amount of work required to restore their homes. It didn’t take long for several residents to see a need for a temporary transfer station organized in their community. Local community members who had the equipment, knowledge and desire approached several leaders at Arnold Community Church to use their parking lot as the staging area for the temporary transfer station. On Sunday, November 21st, Cam Stuart, the Lead Pastor of Arnold Community Church, says the organized chaos began after the transfer station was set up in the church’s parking lot. Before they knew it, residents were dropping off thousands of pounds of damaged furniture, appliances, personal belongings, etc. There were also volunteers going directly to residents’ homes with heavy equipment and trailers to pick up loads of garbage and return it to the transfer station after word got out on social media of a helping hand. In total, an incredible 1.1 million pounds of waste was collected at Arnold Community Church and taken to a commercial transfer station at no cost to residents. Cam says this would not have been possible without the physical and financial support of the following businesses that stepped up when their community needed them: O’Brien Bros., Arctic Arrow Powerline Group, Bell Rock Construction, Ibex Construction, GT Aggregate Commodities, Target Products and Tundra Developments. In total, Cam estimates that the total cost to run the transfer station was anywhere from $100,000 – $125,000, with $70,000 of that making up the disposal costs alone.

       

Community Connection Amid Catastrophe

Not only did Arnold Community Church serve as a transfer station, it also acted as a place of connection where community members could gather to take a break from flood relief efforts and grab some food. Hundreds of volunteers arrived on the scene from other areas of the Fraser Valley, including local sports teams, companies with machinery, and other community members. Those who couldn’t help with the waste movement supported those impacted by flooding by delivering meals, cleaning products, overalls, and other types of materials. Cam reports that 500-600 meals were donated to the church and stored at a local meatpacking company that offered freezer space. The church set up a whiteboard out front that listed the needs of those impacted. The needs listed ranged from a hug to food to a helping hand. Many of the residents in Arnold are new to the community and shared that although tragic circumstances, they are thankful they got to connect with their neighbours during a difficult time. Ultimately, the church acted as a place of relief, connection, and hope.

       

The Long Road to Recovery

Although impacted residents were able to remove a large amount of damaged contents in the first week or so, it’s evident to Cam that there are many layers to restoration and that it will be a long road to recovery. Many residents are now in the process of restoring their homes and replacing damaged appliances and furniture. Restoration is a costly process, and many homeowners are without flood insurance. Those that do have flood insurance have a minimal amount of coverage. This is why Arnold Community Church is providing flood relief funds to residents impacted. According to Arnold Community Church, part of the funds raised will support people in the Arnold Community who have experienced loss and damage to property due to rain and flooding. Abbotsford Community Foundation, the University of the Fraser Valley, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce are happy to have provided an Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund grant to support this cause so that the residents of Arnold can continue their lengthy journey to recovery.

To learn more about Arnold Community Church, click here.

To learn more about the Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund, click here.

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