Volunteer support aids in search for missing woman

Dozens of people distributed posters across Abbotsford this week in hopes of locating Erica Schmidt, missing since Saturday.

Kyle Barwich (left) and Mark Henter organize details in the volunteer effort to help find Erica Schmidt. A “command centre” was set up at the River Community Church where flyers were distributed for volunteers to hand out and post.

Kyle Barwich (left) and Mark Henter organize details in the volunteer effort to help find Erica Schmidt. A “command centre” was set up at the River Community Church where flyers were distributed for volunteers to hand out and post.

One thing is clear from the dozens of volunteers who aided in the efforts to find a missing woman this week: Erica Schmidt is loved and she is missed.

On Saturday morning, the 59-year-old Abbotsford woman left the home she shares with her husband, Henry, on Timberlane Drive. As of Wednesday afternoon, her family and friends had not seen or heard from her.

But many of them scoured city streets on Monday and Tuesday in search of Erica, as they distributed and posted “missing person” flyers.

More than 3,500 posters were handed out across the community at places such as stores, schools, bus stops, movie theatres and recreation centres.

Family friend Mark Henter coordinated this effort, as a complement to the formal search being conducted by the skilled and dedicated volunteers of Central Fraser Valley Search and Rescue and to the investigation being conducted by the Abbotsford Police Department (APD).

Henter stepped in when he saw how overwhelmed Henry was becoming by the volume of phone calls and messages he was receiving from people concerned about Erica’s disappearance.

Henry is a Bible school teacher whose work has taken him around the world to places such as Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, the United States and Nepal.

Erica has accompanied him on these journeys, and Henter said her warm and loving nature, combined with Henry’s affable personality, have garnered them many friendships over the years.

“These people are so loving. They throw their doors open to anyone,” Henter said of the couple, who have been married 35 years and have three grown children.

Henter set up a Facebook page – “Help Find Erica!“– to post updates about the search and to respond to requests on how to help. More than 800 members had joined the group as of Wednesday afternoon, and some of the people who stepped forward to help were strangers.

The River Community Church on South Fraser Way was offered as a “command centre” where volunteers could gather to pick up flyers and receive directions about what areas of Abbotsford to target.

Erica’s and Henry’s son Michael said on Tuesday afternoon that he was moved by the support.

“I think that’s what’s keeping us going at this point. We could not be doing this on our own. People’s prayers and support mean a lot,” he said.

Although Henter said Erica is “usually pretty bubbly,” she had recently been struggling with depression.

Erica is believed to have walked away from the home on Saturday between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. She did not take any belongings nor does she own a cellphone.

Const. Ian MacDonald said Abbotsford Police have received numerous tips, many of which have not panned out. One credible sighting occurred at about 3 p.m. Saturday, when someone who knows Erica spotted her in the area of McCallum Road and Bevan Avenue before the “missing person” report was made public.

Erica is 5′ 4″, 140 pounds with short brown hair and blue eyes. Anyone who thinks they have spotted her is asked to call the APD at 604-859-5225 or text abbypd (222973).

No more flyers are being distributed at this point. For ongoing updates on the volunteer effort and the search for Erica, follow the Facebook page.