A group of kids play on a swing set shaped like a cowboy hat in Calgary

Flood Series: Local heroes ensured kids were safe, didn’t go hungry

A group of kids play on a swing set shaped like a cowboy hat in Calgary

Photo: Urban Exposure Project participant Sally Berges

To mark the one year anniversary of the worst flooding in Southern Alberta’s history, we’re sharing a series of stories on the work that immediately followed. We saw community superheroes emerge, working together to ensure all citizens were safe, cared for and receiving the help they needed.

How kids were helped after the flood

Thanks to community donations to United Way’s emergency flood fund, vulnerable kids were often spared the full impact of the flood’s destruction. Donations were rapidly disbursed to agencies that work directly with kids to meet urgent needs.

Stories of local heroes

Big Brothers Big Sisters Society of Calgary and Area (BBBS)

Three High River best friends had their daily lives turned upside down by the flood. School was suspended and they were all out of their homes living far away from one another. Activity days provided by BBBS gave the girls an opportunity not only to see one another, but to leave the flood behind for a day. “It gives me a chance to see my friends and to feel normal for a day,” said one of the girls.

Their parents were equally grateful. One mother was “wracked with guilt” because she couldn’t provide activities for her daughter. She was relieved to know there were weekly events her daughter could look forward to.

During the flood, BBBS saw relationships with partnering agencies and local businesses in High River grow and strengthen. BBBS says the parents whose children were part of their day camps have become some of their strongest supporters and will have a positive impact on their High River programs in the years to come.

Calgary Achievement Centre for Youth (CACY)

The youth who attend CACY experience high levels of poverty and rely on the school for food. The only option is to be fed at CACY, go hungry or possible criminal activity to get money for food. Every week, the centre supplies lunches to 150 youth attending their programs. During the flood, CACY’s fridges were destroyed, cutting off this vital basic need for many youth.

With support from the emergency fund, CACY was able to purchase two new fridges and fully stock them with healthy food for youth, ensuring they didn’t go hungry.

Youville Residence Society of Alberta

Youville’s Executive Director met with childcare officials in High River in June 2013 to hear about the plight of several children living in foster care in that community. The children were displaced because of the flooding and faced an uncertain future in the weeks and months ahead, with the probability of being shifted from one temporary housing shelter to another. In order to avoid putting the children under even more stress, Youville agreed to house and care for the children in their Family Program, where they lived with their birth mothers, who were clients in recovery programming.

Thanks to support from the emergency fund, Youville was able to bring in staff on 24/7 supervision, a cook and extras such as school fees. United Way emergency funds allowed Youville to shelter, feed and care for foster children in a safe environment with their birth mothers.

Felicia Zuniga is a Media & Communications Advisor at United Way.

Read the rest of the Flood Series: