After the Flood: An Army for High River

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High River. That’s a train track. A TRAIN TRACK.

My family and I took the supplies Sunnyhill didn’t consume during our crisis phase (and thank you all so much for them) down to High River today. It was a heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching experience. It will take an army…

And there is a staging ground for the army, on the northwest corner just outside the town, at the High River rodeo grounds. The Red Cross is there. Samaritan’s Purse is there. There are mountains—literally—of supplies, and Calgarians will bring more, I know. Individuals from Calgary, entire corporate teams are there, on their way. #missionpossible2 will be bussing volunteers; YYC Helps wants to do everything it can. We met a rep from one of Calgary’s oil sands giants. She’ll be back tomorrow with a crew of 50. There will be—there should be—an army for High River.

But its leadership? It’s not going to come from above.

Guessing most of Calgary would be stopping at the North staging area, we decided to take our supplies to the south staging area, at the Sheppard Family Park. The Hutterites were there, feeding people. Tide was there with washing machines, doing people’s laundry (thank you, Tide!). And there was a little tent, full of the Red Cross Disaster Cleanup kits.

And a bunch of confused residents wandering around. Looking for answers, looking for stuff, looking for direction, looking for organization.

They’ve just come home, see, and if you’ve seen what they’ve come home to… Jesus. Today, you are allowed to tell me I was lucky, because today I’ve seen High River first-hand.

So. As soon as we started unloading the truck—filled with the shovels, brooms, giant buckets, rags, face masks, gloves etc. etc. you gave to us for what we thought was our massive clean-up (and gods above and below, compared to High River, we had to do—nothing, nothing)—these people started coming to us.

“Are you in charge?” “No, just dropping off supplies.” “Who’s in charge?” “Do you know what we’re supposed to do with…” “I need some…”

We have no authority, real or moral, right? We are not High River. And we are not experts. And we are not of the community, certainly not  leaders. And we know there is an army amassing to help High River, that there is as much desire to help as there is need.

But we also know, from our experience in saving Sunnyhill, Sunnyside and Calgary, that among the things High River people need right now is on-the-ground leadership. From someone. Anyone. They’re screaming for it.

So. I call out. In 140 characters. “On the ground in High River & people are asking us who’s in charge #abflood not a good sign.”

And the Alberta government is on this. Absolutely. They respond to me right away. Someone is monitoring that Twitter account 24/7.

But wait.

Allow yourself the pleasure of experiencing our exchange in full:

Marzena Czarnecka ‏@paddleink
On ground in High River & people are asking us who’s in charge… #abflood not good sign

Alberta Government ‏@YourAlberta
@paddleink The Welcome Centre @ the Rodeo Grounds will continue to be the location for residents & volunteers to gain access to #highriver .

Marzena Czarnecka ‏@paddleink
@YourAlberta then you’ve got to do a better job communicating with the residents in south part of town

Alberta Government ‏@YourAlberta
@paddleink The Welcome Cntr has been the primary point of contact since recovery began. Reentry plan:

Alberta Government ‏@YourAlberta
@paddleink This page has important information for #highriver residents and is updated on a regular basis:

No words.

Actually, one:


Wait. I can elaborate, just a little.

I tell you High River residents are asking for leadership.

And you respond with…

“We have a website.”

Fucking awesome.

There are signs in several places around High River that say “Re-elect Nobody.”

There’s a reason for that.


Go to High River. They need an army. The Alberta government has a website for this too, and you can find out from them how to help High River here:

If you go to the Rodeo Grounds, you should be organized and deployed. And you will be useful.

But if you’ve cut your teeth in Sunnyhill, Sunnyside, Bowness, Mission… you know what to do. Guerilla volunteering. Go where the people are. Do what they need you to do. Bring your own tools. Check in with YYC Helps and our other amazing volunteer deployers. Check #missionpossible2 #highriver updates on Twitter. And go.

Save High River.

Don’t wait for leadership from above. Be the leadership. Find a need and fill it. That’s what you did in Sunnyhill, in Calgary. Do it in High River.



From a resident, responding to my post on one of my shares:

Bless you We need you. We need young strong people to lift our heavy soaking wet stuff from the boulevards into more garbage bins when they come, and someone to go around and ask people to move their vehicles so big trucks can empty the bins that are already overflowing. We need people who know how to shovel the contaminated muck from our homes who have the strength to carry full buckets up the stairs. We need people who know how to haul drowned appliances up muddy stairs, and who still have the strength left to do it. We greet you with open arms.

Give them what they need.


No car? No excuse: Shuttle service to transport volunteers from #yychelps to High River begins July 4 at 9 a.m. Shuttles will depart Mount Royal University (Parkade and Lots A and B (South side of campus, at 4825 Mount Royal Gate SW) and Bishop O’Byrne High School (500 333 Shawville Blvd SE) to the Mission Possible 2 volunteer staging grounds in High River, every two hours.



Crowdsourced list of who needs help: 

Feed High River: Email and connect with High River Volunteer Food Matching on Facebook