Helping others, there and back

Sally Ann volunteers deal with flooding in Alberta and serious car crash

  • Jul. 20, 2013 11:00 a.m.
Volunteers from the Abbotsford Salvation Army were volunteering in High River

Volunteers from the Abbotsford Salvation Army were volunteering in High River

Karam Gill and Rob Smith, employees from the Abbotsford Salvation Army shelter, were on their way back from helping flood-stricken areas in Alberta when they were stopped on the highway near Revelstoke.

They had spent the last week volunteering with the Salvation Army’s emergency disaster services unit, following the flooding in southern Alberta.

A fatal collision closed Highway 1 for roughly four hours, leaving many motorists stuck in the heat in traffic delays. Luckily, Gill and Smith were in the Salvation Army’s unit, a mobile canteen that can act as a kitchen, providing meals for volunteers, emergency personnel and displaced persons. They had a variety of supplies on hand to share with the other stranded motorists.

“We had a truck full of water and snacks… people thought we were there to help out following the accident, not that we were stuck too,” said Gill.

Gill and Smith had left Alberta early, trying to arrive back in Abbotsford by the evening. But, with an unavoidable delay, they agreed they had to make the best of a bad situation.

People wandered over to stand in the shade cast by the tall disaster services  vehicle, while Gill and Smith provided them with bottles of water to combat the heat.

It was an act of kindness – just one more in a week spent helping others.

Gill and Smith had been in Calgary and High River, some of the hardest-hit areas in recent flooding. They set up the canteen in the rodeo grounds outside of High River, which were being used as a registration point for evacuated residents to find out whether they could return to their homes.

As they prepared meals for volunteers and residents, they saw many people who were not allowed to return home, and others who had nothing to return to.

Along with the roughly 10 volunteers from Abbotsford, they would drive the canteen around the streets of High River, handing out bottles of water and snacks.

Andy Kwak, community ministries director for Abbotsford’s Salvation Army, was among those in Alberta for two weeks, providing spiritual and emotional support for those affected.

The volunteers agreed that despite the devastation and high tensions among residents, they found high levels of community spirit, and local teamwork to repair the community.

Gill said it is hard to put into words what they saw while in the flood zone, with devastated streets, everything caked in mud, and the roofs of houses poking out of the water. He added that while they were at the rodeo grounds, people who had lost so much were nevertheless giving donations to support the efforts of the Salvation Army.

“Even with all that they’ve been through, a lot of them are still smiling.”

Anyone wishing to support the Salvation Army’s efforts can donate at, or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769), or via mail to The Salvation Army, 2 Overlea Blvd. Toronto, ON M4H 1P4.

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