Hey Neighbour Uses Disaster Relief Fund to Support Residents Impacted by Flooding
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when community members were losing their jobs and struggling to put food on the table, an organization named Hey Neighbour sprouted.
They asked their neighbours if they wanted to help them fill the local food bank so that no one would go hungry. They dropped off brown paper bags and a simple note at their doors and told them when they’d return to pick up the bags filled with food. Before they knew it cities across Canada were doing the same thing in their communities and food banks across the country were full. Since then, they haven’t stopped helping their neighbours.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Hey Neighbour jumped into action when an atmospheric river caused significant flooding on Sumas Prairie in November 2021. Within days, they turned one of the buildings they were leasing in downtown Abbotsford into a Support Centre, where businesses and community members could drop off donations for impacted residents. The space became packed with goods, such as ready-to-eat food, gift cards, water, clothes, shoes, winter jackets and more, for impacted residents at no cost.
Their team began in-person consultants with residents to assess their needs and purchase any items they didn’t have available in the store. Items they have provided range from specialized medical equipment to books to bedding. They also teamed up with The Foundry to have a therapist on-site once a week so residents could immediately access mental health services while picking up goods.
To support Hey Neighbours’ efforts, we provided them with two grants from the Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund (ADRF) in partnership with the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and the University of the Fraser Valley. This would not be possible without the incredible support the fund has received from individuals and businesses locally and globally.
The first grant was provided to help support initial costs of providing free goods & services to the flood impacted residents while the second grant was provided to help Hey Neighbour shift their operations to an online store earlier this year. They pivoted from in-person consultation to phone and Zoom consultations and moved their free store to an online store format to accommodate flood victims who were busy rebuilding. The funds provided to Hey Neighbour helped them keep their Support Centre functioning beyond the original timeline. Their support workers continue to offer consultations with impacted community members and find and provide specific resources for families at no cost through community connections, counselling partnerships, family sponsorships, access to their online free store, and benevolence gifts.
When asked what stood out to her, Community Support Director Elysia McCallum shared that it was incredible seeing how selfless and kind impacted residents were during difficult times. Many affected residents were reluctant to accept free items, feeling as though there was someone else who may need it more. She was also blown away that many of the residents dealing with the aftermath of flooding were still helping others when they had the capacity.
Elysia estimates that Hey Neighbour served 120 separate households resulting in 300 – 400 impacted residents, offering them free items and counselling services. She shared that they have heard so many heartbreaking stories from families walking through the process of rebuilding since the flood.
With the funding provided by the ADRF, Hey Neighbour feels as though they have been able to give people more than just ‘things’, they have been able to provide them with hope — a reprieve from the never-ending slog of recovering and rebuilding from such a devastating experience.
To learn more about Hey Neighbour and their efforts, click here.
To learn more about the Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund, click here.