Friday, June 28, 2013

Jewish Federations Aid Calgary Flood Relief Efforts

Drew Staffenberg, the executive director of the Calgary Jewish Federation, stood yesterday in what had been someone’s basement – but was now consumed in brown mud.

For days, he and Federation staff, board members and volunteers have been carting ruined furniture from flooded homes to dumpsters on residential streets lined with identical debris-filled bins.
“There are no words,” he said this morning. Staffenberg has been spearheading the Calgary Jewish Federation’s response to the worst flooding ever to hit the Canadian province, with volunteer crews visiting homes to help try to salvage personal items and clean up.

Torrential rains last week churned unprecedented flooding across southern Alberta, killing two people, forcing 100,000 to flee, submerging parts of the capital and causing billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses and institutions.

Buildings Submerged by Calgary Flooding. View more photos here.
While no Jewish communal buildings or agencies were damaged, Staffenberg said, many members of the 10,000-strong community have suffered major losses to homes or businesses, most of which lacked flood insurance. Some people remain out of work, as well, with many businesses closed indefinitely.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said, after visiting homes buried with mud up to 14 feet. “I’m sure those in New Orleans, New Jersey and New York, among others, can understand.”

The Jewish Federations of North America has opened a mailbox to support the local Federation’s response, with 100 percent of donations going to the community. Please click here to donate. You can also mail checks to the Federation Calgary Flood Relief Fund, care of:

Jewish Federation of San Diego County
4950 Murphy Canyon Drive
San Diego, CA 92123

In the flood’s wake, the Federation launched the Calgary Flood Emergency Fund, now joined by other efforts including UJA/Federation of Greater Toronto. The Federation is working with the Calgary JCC and Calgary Jewish Family Services, and has been assembling and distributing critical emergency aid including food for victims and for volunteers, drinking water, blankets, and hygiene kits.

Federation is also helping to provide financial aid for those unable to work or displaced from their homes, while assessing longer-term needs.

Meanwhile, Federation volunteers have been out in force, shoveling mud, toting drywall, loading dumpsters, and power-washing floors, he said. Staffenberg helped one household save family photos, laying them to dry on an untouched second floor of a home otherwise covered in mud.

The community’s response has been nothing short of “heartwarming” amid the devastation, he said. “I have only heard ‘how can I help,’ ‘what can we do,’ ‘let us know what you need,’” he said. Ultimately, he added, “we’ll all be OK here.”


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