British Columbia

Grassroots disaster relief fund raises more than $1.5M for people affected by Abbotsford floods

The Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund has received an outpouring of donations locally and globally. The funds will be distributed to registered charities and non-profits to support the immediate and intermediate needs of those affected by floods in Abbotsford.

Funds are being distributed to charities and non-profits to support flood victims

A man in a high visibility jacket walks among pooled water.
A contractor walks along a flooded road in the Huntingdon neighbourhood of Abbotsford, B.C., on November 29. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A grassroots flood relief fund in Abbotsford has received overwhelming community and global support, surpassing $1.5 million in donations as of Monday.

"The volume of donations and the response from the community ... country, and even all over the world has been amazing. We've never seen this type of response to an initiative before. And it's been incredible," said Wendy Neufeld, executive director of the Abbotsford Community Foundation, which is accepting and distributing donations. 

The Abbotsford Disaster Relief Fund (ADRF) was jointly established Nov. 17 by the Abbotsford Community Foundation, Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). 

A couple of days earlier, southwestern B.C. was pummelled by torrential rains that caused landslides, highway collapses, and catastrophic flooding in several communities, including Abbotsford. Farms were flooded, livestock was lost, and hundreds of properties were evacuated in the Sumas Prairie. 

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun has estimated it will cost $1 billion to fix all the damage and upgrade the dikes that protect the Sumas Prairie. 

Since the fund was established a few weeks ago, more than 3,500 donations have been received, half from corporate donors and half from individuals, said Craig Toews, vice-president external relations for UFV. 

Support has stretched beyond the Fraser Valley with donations pouring in from across the world, including Australia, Germany, Italy, Sweden, England, and the United States. 

"It's just fantastic to see ... how the whole world is actually looking in on this and giving from their heart," said Toews.

The Canadian Red Cross has raised $17.4 million as of Monday to support individuals, families and communities affected by the flooding and extreme weather in British Columbia. That amount does not include matching funds, which will be known at a later date. 

Funds funnel through charities and non-profits 

Meanwhile, the funds raised by the local group are being distributed to charities and non-profit organizations to help those affected in Abbotsford, Neufeld said.

One of the first recipients is Kids Play Youth Foundation, which has provided food and essential care packages with non-perishable food items, warm clothing, toiletries, and necessities. 

Cares Counselling Society is another early recipient and has committed to offering 20 individuals or families six free sessions of counselling.

"When they don't even know what's going to happen to their homes, or their livestock ... It's just really nice to be able to offer them free counselling," said Irene Heinrichs, the executive director of Cares Counselling. 

Cares Counselling Society in Abbotsford is one of the charities receiving funding to support free counselling services for flood impacted families. (Cares Counselling Society )

The local relief fund group is also working with the B.C. Agriculture Council to ensure relief for growers, farming families, and businesses directly affected by flooding. 

The B.C. Cancer Foundation will receive funding to help patients and their families get to their appointments and treatments. 

"When facing a cancer diagnosis, you shouldn't have to worry about how to get to and from radiation appointments, access chemotherapy, or put food on the table for your family," Sarah Roth, President and CEO of the B.C. Cancer Foundation, said in a media release. 

Fundraising and distribution efforts continue

So far, there is no deadline to donate or apply for funding as urgent needs are being met, and the focus is to offer help for the long haul, Neufeld said. 

"We are very, very cognizant that the need is great. And it's not just today, it'll be well into the future," she said. 

Registered charities and non-profits can go to the Abbotsford Community Foundation website and fill out an application to apply for funding. 

Funds are available to organizations that have either directly supported residents or provide support to those negatively affected by the flooding.

The Abbotsford Community Foundation meets twice a week to select grant recipients. To date, the foundation has approved eight different grants to eligible organizations helping with flood relief, Neufeld says. 

Grants will also be given to affected farms and businesses by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce in the coming weeks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Baneet Braich

CBC Journalist

Baneet Braich is a journalist with CBC News. Connect with her at baneet.braich@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @Baneet_Braich

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