When Trina Howell opened the trailer of the first truck that arrived at her home when her family began their Koots for Calgary relief effort her first thought was, “How are we ever going to fill that?”
Four trucks later the Glenmerry resident is grateful for the help in dealing with all the donations that have been loaded and shipped to Alberta.
“It only took six and a half hours to fill the first truck,” said Howell.
“The call went out and the Fruitvale Fire Department showed up to help out.
“They’ve been great, they had a hand in every load.”
What began as a single family effort, motivated by seeing the devastating loss for so many families in southern Alberta, eventually grew into large campaign with donations arriving from around the West Kootenay.
Neighbours and volunteers from around the area came on-board to help pick up and organize donations and loading the trucks destined for Calgary and surrounding area.
“We had one 84 year old call and volunteer to do the pick-ups, David Quarterman, he said that he was still spry enough to help out,” said Howell.
“He was more than spry, he put some of the younger guys to shame.
“He was driving all over the area collecting donations.”
Howell said that, through the process of building the project, she gained contacts in the stricken areas of Alberta that helped to give her a clearer picture of the effect the flooding had on residents.
“I’ve got contacts on the reserves, in High River and at the drop-in centre in Calgary,” she said.
“I’ve been getting comments back that people are feeling hopeless, they’re not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I just feel that it’s not acceptable to leave people in that state of hopelessness.”
She said that the plight of the First Nations people living on the reserve was particularly affecting.
“They are still evacuated and living in tents. They’re staying on the school grounds on a rise above the flooded area.” Howell explained. “It must be so hard to be there, looking down every day on where you had lived.”
Although the fourth truck, scheduled to leave Monday, was intended to be the final load, the Howell family isn’t finished with their efforts yet.
“We’re still taking some prom dresses from Nelson. They’ve postponed their prom until September in High River so we have some time to get them there,” said Howell. “We’re considering doing another load later in the summer when people are trying to get re-settled in their homes again. We’ll be looking for different donations then, not so much clothing but maybe more things like small appliances and what-not, the kind of things they will need to get their home life going again.”
The relief project has taken a lot of work for the Howells but Trina says she has no regrets about taking it on.
“Not only would I do it again, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” she said. “The response of the community was overwhelming and it was an emotional and touching experience. It was more work than we expected but everyone who helped out said it was worth it.”