Disaster relief coordinator Tammy Suitor at the Samaritan’s Purse unit at River Valley Community Church last week. (Kathleen Saylors/Grand Forks Gazette)

Samaritan’s Purse begins clean-up efforts

The group needs volunteers to help out.

Boundary residents are beginning the difficult process of cleaning up their homes after disastrous flooding earlier this month – but there is help available for the dirty work ahead.

Samaritan’s Purse, a faith-based organization, arrived in the Boundary on Wednesday and began operations on Thursday. The group aids in disaster relief efforts – essentially, they get homes ready to be repaired and rebuilt, said disaster relief coordinator Tammy Suitor.

“Our goal is to be able to help people in the initial recovery step,” she said. “We’ll clean you up, assess to see damage, take out flooring, drywall, all the contents out.”

Suitor said the crews will work to about two feet above the water line, as water wicks up through drywall. They also use a hospital-grade disinfectant to prevent mold and growth.

The entire process for a home can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the availability of volunteers and the size of the crew working on a home.

The idea, Suitor said, is that homeowners shouldn’t have to spend disaster assistance or insurance money on restoration companies – that should be for rebuilding and repairing.

“Lots of times, you might get the money in, but if you get a restoration company, will eat that up and they don’t have anything to go forward with,” she said.

Suitor said her team is planning on being in the area from three to six weeks, or as long as they receive calls for work orders.

They will work with any homeowner, but those with low incomes, seniors, uninsured people and other vulnerable populations should definitely call for help, she said.

The team is self-sufficient, she said: they try not to be a “drain” on communities, so they bring all of their own supplies and protective equipment. All they need are people.

Suitor said they introduce themselves to local disaster officials and work with them to develop a recovery plan. In most cases, they monitor disasters through the media and through volunteers and members on the ground. After making sure they have the capacity to respond, they deploy once the disaster is officially in recovery mode, she said.

The organization has three Samaritan’s Purse Units located across Canada, and can be deployed anywhere in a matter of a day or so.

In years past, the group has done disaster relief in the wake of wildfires in Fort McMurray, Ashcroft and Williams Lake. The organization is also currently active in New Brunswick, working on flood relief.

Suitor said that while they cannot rehabilitate homes owned by landlords – those are considered small businesses that generate income, and Samaritan’s Purse is strictly non-profit – tenants can call and receive help with possession recovery.

Suitor said the group needs volunteers – it is what allows them to do the work for free for homeowners. Samaritan’s Purse provides an orientation as well as supplies for a bagged lunch each day.

Their core leadership is also volunteer, she said – many are retired firefighters and first responders, and other volunteers take vacation time to come to disaster areas.

“You don’t have to have experience, just a heart to help,” she said.

Volunteers can register in person with the Samaritan’s Purse, set up at River Valley Community Church (2826-75 Avenue) or online at samaritanspurse.ca. Anyone needing Samaritan’s Purse clean-up assistance can call 1-866-628-6565.

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