Months after the floodwaters receded, many families in the Montérégie region are still struggling to rebuild and provide a happy holiday season for their children.
For more than 70 kids and families affected by the devastating spring floods, Saturday came with some much-appreciated holiday cheer.
SOS Richelieu, the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu police brotherhood and the Lions Club organized a holiday party with appearances by Santa, la Fée des Étoiles and dozens of volunteers who have been helping the communities rebuild.
"Everybody went home very, very happy," said Michel Fecteau, president of SOS Richelieu, an organization that helped coordinate volunteers and donations in the aftermath of the floods.
More than 3,000 homes were flooded and more than 1,000 people were forced out when the waters on the Richelieu River rose past the flood mark set 140 years earlier.
Since then, the affected communities have been rebuilding, a process that has been aided by a mild fall and winter, Fecteau said.
In addition to gifts for the children, volunteers also handed out gift cards to parents for groceries and gas at Saturday’s event.
Many people lost their jobs in the wake of the floods and there are some still struggling with no income and no way to pay for holiday festivities, organizers said.
Residents affected by the flooding were eligible for up to $150,000 in emergency funding to rebuild from the provincial government.
In mid-November, when that funding was set to expire, 200 families were still homeless.
Fecteau said there are still families waiting to rebuild and many will likely have to wait until spring because of ongoing investigations and files that haven’t yet been completed.
"But, I’m glad to see there are less and less families that are still dealing with finalizing all their paperwork and everything to get back in their home and to be secure for wintertime."