New Brunswick

Hot meals and a handshake: Salvation Army wraps up flood relief support

The Salvation Army has wrapped up its flood relief support in communities along the St. John River after providing countless meals and comfort to first responders, volunteers and affected residents.

Emotional support is an important component of disaster response, says emergency services co-ordinator

Salvation Army staff and volunteers in meal trucks like this one helped feed those affected by the spring flooding in New Brunswick. (CBC)

The Salvation Army has wrapped up its flood relief support in communities along the St. John River after providing countless meals and comfort to first responders, volunteers and affected residents.

"It's always a privilege to serve New Brunswickers, especially during such a devastating flood," said emergency disaster services co-ordinator Louise Armstrong.

She had a "very capable" team of staff and 35 volunteers to call upon this year.

They're all trained in emergency disaster, but they're also trained in emergency spiritual and emotional care, which is a "big component" for people going through a disaster situation.

Although it had been a year since the last major flood in the province, Armstrong noted many of those displaced residents were still recovering.

"So to go through it again, they're emotionally tapped and drained," she said.

"Sometimes they just need someone to talk to, and the people that are helping don't have that time."

So that's where the Salvation Army volunteers come in.

Many of the residents affected by flooding this spring were still recovering from last year's floodwaters, adding to the emotional strain, said Louise Armstrong, the Salvation Army's emergency disaster services co-ordinator. (Jonathan Collicott/CBC)

It can be difficult to know what to say to the displaced residents because unless the volunteers have been through it themselves, they can't truly understand what they're feeling, she said.

Often, it's more about listening and offering support.

Volunteer Dave Stuart, who took vacation time from his day job to help with the Salvation Army's flood relief efforts, said people were appreciative.

"Those impacted by the flooding worked long hours and experienced significant stress; they were happy to take a break, enjoy a hot chocolate and/or a meal, regain some energy and know they are not alone," he said in a statement.

It was rewarding to see the community come together in a time of crisis, he added.

The Salvation Army was on the ground helping with necessities like food and water for the workers and flood victims. Louise Armstrong is emergency disaster services co-ordinator for the Salvation Army in New Brunswick. 6:49

The Salvation Army staff and volunteers were called in to help with flood relief on April 23.

They were stationed primarily at sandbagging sites during the first week, when the floodwaters were rising, and during the second week, the recovery phase, they were based at volunteer stations.

"The outpouring of support from partner organizations, including the Salvation Army, was greatly appreciated," the director of the Saint John Emergency Management Organization and fire Chief Kevin Clifford said in a statement.

"The Salvation Army was ready and on the ground responding to those in need."

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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