Alberta Floods: Red Cross supports Neighbour Day celebrations

Topics: Alberta, Emergencies and Disasters in Canada
Diana Coulter | June 27, 2014

Alberta Floods: Red Cross supports Neighbour Day celebrations

A big pair of yellow rubber boots was one way Jacqueline Dix chose to remember the first anniversary of the Alberta floods. Encouraging Calgary neighbours to sign the boots, Dix explained that she was helping her hard-hit community of Bowness celebrate “Neighbour Day,” while also creating a token of gratitude for everyone who helped after the disaster.

“We just really want to say thank you to all of Calgary, all the people who turned up here after the floods and helped out,” said Dix. “This is just one small way of doing that.”

On June 21st, people across the city participated in dozens of events as residents honoured the generous displays of community support sparked by the disaster. More sombre events commemorating the Alberta floods were hosted by many flood-affected municipalities on June 20th. But last month, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi announced the creation of Neighbour Day, saying it was important for Calgarians to also celebrate the community’s flood response.

“The best way for us to remember the incredible outpouring of citizenship after the flood is for us to be together with our neighbours,” Nenshi explained.

Because Red Cross recognizes the importance of community spirit, resiliency and the contribution of volunteers, it offered small grants to flood-impacted community associations organizing Neighbour Day events.

In Bowness, Red Cross helped support the “Boots and Hearts” celebration which residents had planned for months, said Michelle Dice of the Bowness Community Association. From bouncy castles and face-painting to thank-you posters displayed outside almost every flood-affected home, the event was an “important opportunity to express our gratitude and give back a little to everybody in Calgary who turned up to help here last year,” said Dice. Red Cross funding helped residents stage the event, she added.

Sue Phillips, Red Cross director general for Western Canada, attended the Bowness celebration and was struck by the impressive resiliency of people there. One family, she noted, lost all their belongings in the floods, having moved into their new home just four days before the disaster. “When we arrived, they were handing out fresh handmade spring rolls to visitors,” and had a large red heart posted outside their home that said: “Thank you Bowness. Thank you Red Cross. Thank you Volunteers. Thank you Calgarians.”

“The event on Saturday illustrated how far the community and its members have come, despite the destruction and many obstacles they have faced. Red Cross was welcomed and thanked everywhere we went,” said Phillips.

The inner-city neighbourhood of Erlton also focused on the positive aspects of the flood response, said Michelle Smekal of the Erlton Community Association. For Neighbour Day there, Red Cross helped support kids’ activities and a barbecue.

“The floods were one of the most devastating events in our community’s history. People lost homes, our streets were ripped up and our bridge was gone. But the neighbourliness that was created is what we gained, and that’s what we want to celebrate now,” said Smekal.