One of the homes Mennonite Disaster Services is building for a homeowner who lost their home to the Spokin Lake Road wildfire in 2017.

Mennonite volunteers help wildfire victims rebuild homes

Volunteers sometimes come for a week at a time

Almost intoxicating.

That’s how Peter Thiessen of the Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS) describes the opportunity to rebuild homes for people who lost theirs in the Cariboo Chilcotin’s 2017 wildfires.

“Working with volunteers, or with people who choose to give a week of their time to serve their neighbour is amazing,” Thiessen said as he and his team began putting in the footings for a home in the Spokin Lake Road area. “They have tremendous spirit and attitude. It’s great to be able to harness that for a week.”

Thiessen and a team of as many as 24 volunteers at a time began the work on May 21, based out of Cariboo Bethel Church where they are currently camping out.

They are rebuilding two homes lost to the Spokin Lake Road fire and one to the Hanceville-Riske Creek fire.

“We spread people around as they are needed. Up the road they are pouring a basement floor and that’s a priority so they get more people this morning. Every day we decide what we need at given site,” Thiessen said.

The homes are bungalows and will each take about four months to be completed.

Funding for the homes comes from many sources.

“In this case the home owner had some insurance, but not enough so we will connect those dots by fundraising from a variety of sources,” Thiessen explained. “That’s not my task, it’s done by our Winnipeg head office. Ross Penner, our director of Canadian Operations, said he would find the money. Evelyn Peters-Rojas, with volunteer development, said she would find the people and we said we’d build it. It’s simple, we each have our tasks.”

Some of the volunteers are students attending Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford and an individual private donor has committed to pay their tuition if they spend eight weeks of the year with MDS doing relief work, Thiessen said, noting the donor has offered the same to three or four colleges in Western Canada.

“Any student can apply for that,” he added.

Read more: 2017 wildfires focus of Williams Lake community art project

One of those students is Justin Spencer from Sorrento, B.C. who has worked as a firefighter for four seasons.

He wasn’t fighting fires in the Cariboo Chilcotin last summer, but in the Okanagan, and said after working for several years as a firefighter it’s a valuable experience to come to a fire-impacted area to help rebuild.

“I’ve built homes for MDS four months total now,” he said. “I spent three weeks in a First Nations community in South Dakota building houses after tornadoes, and then I’ve been here.”

Another student Heather Belanger, is from Campbell River, and said she was on cooking duty to feed the volunteers, but had taken the morning off to come work at the building site.

Beulah Shirk from Wisconsin normally works in a nursing home, but loves to volunteer with MDS whenever she can.

“I’ve been doing it for three years and every year I’ve been at a different place,” Shirk said. “The first year I was in Alabama, then I was in Washington and then West Virginia.”

About half a kilometre away on Shefler Road, Julia Ann Leid and Anetta Hoover, both from Wisconsin, were up on ladders nailing house wrap on the upper level of the new home being built there.

Hoover said it’s her fourth time volunteering at an MDS site and she’s also helped with cooking.

Smiling, they said they caught the train and then the bus to get to Williams Lake.

Theissen said they meet with the owner and consult with them through a full interview to see if they qualify before deciding to build the homes.

“If they qualify, then we find out what their needs are and then we design accordingly.”

The homes are simple and normally about 1,000 square foot in size.

“In this one we are making some adjustments because the woman’s daughter was in an accident a few years ago and became wheelchair bound so we are putting in a separate suite for the daughter,” he said.

“So it will be a two-in-one and will be a bit larger.”



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

MDS volunteers Julia Ann Leid (left) and Anetta Hoover work at one of the homes they a rebuilding in the Spokin Lake Road area.

Volunteer Mary Ella Martin from Wisconsin and Heather Belanger from Campbell River take a break from cooking duty to help with the footing work at the site.

MDS construction project manager Peter Thiessen.

A local concrete company is hired to help at the site.

Just Posted

First of Interior Forest Sector Renewal meetings kicks off in Williams Lake

Around 40 people from local government, industry, COFI, Alkali Resource Management and Williams Lake Community Forest attended

Moleschi, Canada Women’s Sevens competing in Pan American Games July 26 to 28

The Canadians will compete against Brazil, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago

VIDEO: Williams Lake RCMP pedalling bike security program

Const. Sean Doyle has brought 529 Garage to the city and encourages all bike owners to register

Barkerville’s sixth annual Indigenous Celebrations takes place Saturday, July 20

This year’s event will also be the soft launch of Indigenous programming at the historic site

Council moves to develop more ‘realistic’ budgets

Part of a new budget and timeline plan proposes a zero per cent tax increase in 2020

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

Injured fawn at B.C. vet will be euthanized Friday night unless claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer is currently being treated at West Kelowna’s Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

B.C. First Nation’s group using ads in Texas targeting company for fuel spill

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Most Read