we realized needs were changing almost daily,” explains Kuit. “First it was hip waders. Then it was warm clothing and boots. Now it’s dehumidifiers. Next week it will be something else.” Despite all this tangible need, it didn’t take Kuit long to recognize that daily bread alone wasn’t the only thing that kept people kept coming back to the Food Hub. She quickly understood that those who’d been affected by the natural disaster — or simply witnessed their neighbours’ losses and hardships — also needed each other for emotional support. Janzen confirms this. “It’s a great place to chat with the neighbours. Somewhere comfortable where we can all just sit and rest for a few minutes by the fire with a cup of coffee.” Although harder to measure, this social support from the Food Hub is as important as the goods flowing in and out. The feeling of being supported and understood is crucial to resilience in the aftermath of a natural disaster. That’s what Kuit is serving up. Down the road at Ripples Winery, owners Paul and Caroline Mostertman and Michelle Dick have found comfort and support at the Yarrow Food Hub. “It’s a different world out here in the aftermath,” says Dick, whose husband of 38 years passed away from brain cancer just a few months before the flood. “People who aren’t at ground zero don’t understand it.” In 2015, Ripples became a sparkling destination where locals, tourists and wedding parties came to celebrate and take in the Secret Garden. The beautiful clear roof reception space was “filled with large tropical trees and plants and draped with elegant chiffon with massive, dimmable crystal chandeliers that twinkle all night. Water features add soft gurgles and the sent of jasmine and ginger lilies fill the night air,” as described on the website.
“At first I didn’t think we needed help,” she says. “Other farmers had lost everything. But one day we needed milk. We’re dairy farmers, and we didn’t have milk. We didn’t even have time to grab fast food.” That was the moment she realized her family did need help. When she stopped at the Food Hub to pick up milk, “Victoria kept stuffing my sons’ pockets full of treats. She knows how much teenage boys eat. It was such a relief because then they weren’t constantly bugging our evacuation hosts for food. It was so needed, at just the right moment. It was amazing.” Members of the tight-knit community stepped up in droves. Brian Louwerse of Yarrow General Store (who’s Janzen’s brother-in-law) provided tools, animal feed, and countless pairs of rubber boots to those in need. Missy Drysdale and Deseree Klimson tirelessly worked Facebook with targeted requests for aid, sourcing boots and other necessary supplies. Because the Food Hub is a grassroots, volunteer-driven initiative without the restrictions governing municipal and institutional relief efforts, its support flows to any flood victims who need help — no matter where they live. And thanks to Kuit, support arrived fast, with no questions asked and no cumbersome paperwork. Another difference is that the Hub provides any and everything — not just food. “Dehumidifiers, boots, gloves, safety gear, cleaning supplies, you name it,” explains Kuit. But food is where it all started. As soon as Yarrow residents were back on their feet, hundreds began volunteering for the Food Hub. They provided a seemingly endless flow of crockpots full of hot homemade chilli, stew and soup. They baked countless batches of muffins, cookies and buns. They donated oodles of gift cards, flats of bottled water, crates of crackers, tubs of hand warmers, bags of toques and boxes of boots. Even the local Girl Guide unit pitched in by providing cheery handmade cards to boost morale. “It was such a load off,” explains Janzen as she describes the process of flood recovery on the family dairy farm. “I’m usually the one who cooks everything, but with all that running around there was no way I could have managed to get groceries and do the cooking. We couldn’t have gotten through without that support. And we had a functional kitchen. So many people didn’t. And they still don’t,” she laments.
But now everything is gone, destroyed by the flood.
Mostertman and her husband have owned and operated the property for forty years, stewarding their farm from earthy beginnings as a hog operation. Sadly, the flood destroyed most of their inventory. “Our biggest challenge has been losing so much stock,” Mostertman explains. “Barrels just floated away. And everything with a cork had to be discarded because it could have been contaminated by the toxic floodwater. We were able to sanitize bottles with screwtops.
But hot meals and food hampers were only the beginning. “Soon
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