Flood 2013: Propellus Update

June 21, 2013. If you are from Southern Alberta, that date will likely be etched in your memory. It was the day that the Bow and Elbow rivers flooded the southern part of the province.

The entire downtown core was evacuated and the lights went out. For days, the core of the city was dark.

Despite the fact that flooding has been known to happen in Alberta, the extent of the flood, and the damage left in its wake was unprecedented.

So was the response from the community, the city, the province, and even the country.

*Photo credit: United Way of Calgary & Area

*Photo credit: United Way of Calgary & Area

There was a sense of helplessness in the province, Albertans are not people who are content to sit on their hands when people need help, so people desperately wanted to help – but no one really knew what could be done.

Unfortunately, during this time, the offices (formerly Volunteer Calgary) were among those evacuated and our power was shut off. The power being off meant that our servers were down, and our volunteer database was as dark as the city.

Despite the lack of electricity, and the staff and board being relegated to different quadrants in the city, our business continuity plan took effect immediately upon the emergence of the crisis.

The Propellus board was able to meet during the crisis to review the situation and to ensure that our operations continued as seamlessly as possible, proving that having a strong board is key to successful governance in a crisis situation.

The outpouring of support for the affected communities really took off on the Saturday morning. Propellus staff responded by taking to social media round the clock, connecting the community needing information, and organizations accepting donations for those affected by the rapidly rising waters. As the call for donations settled, and the need for volunteers rose, we utilized the social media pages to connect volunteers with volunteer opportunities.

In under a week the Volunteer Calgary Facebook page had 174,000 shares, twitter acquired 1,000 new followers, and the blog had almost 60,000 views.

Bowness volunteersDuring the crisis, entire groups of people, especially groups of employees, were looking to volunteer. Propellus staff, in conjunction with the City of Calgary, worked tirelessly to engage these groups with fulfilling work.

Behind the scenes, the Propellus servers were only down for three business days. The fabulous I.T. crew worked doggedly to relocate the servers and get them running so that the rest of the staff could access the servers from home and get back to work on strengthening organizations.

The University of Calgary was very kind in recognizing the need for Propellus staff to be able to work together, they graciously allowed us use of one of their suites on the 27th and 28th, the space at the U of C allowed for Propellus staff to better serve the Calgary community.

We Recognized the need to understand both the immediate and long-term impact of this crisis, to that end Propellus, Calgary Chamber Voluntary Organizations (CCVO) and Calgary Arts Development Association (CADA) began a collaborative effort towards data collection on the impact of the flood on the non-profit sector.

The results of the survey will help inform how community organizations have been impacted by the crisis and how we can work together to support to their needs and help strengthen them in the weeks and months to come.

Thankfully, there was no damage to the Propellus offices and little damage to the Kahanoff Centre for Charitable Activities. July 2nd we are back in the offices are working hard to strengthen organizations.

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The City of Calgary has had an overwhelming response  from Calgarians eager to jump in and get involved with the clean-up efforts. (Yay, Calgary!)

There is still so much to be done before we restore our beautiful city to its full glory and many of you are wondering how you can get involved with the abundance of caring citizens around Calgary (and the rest of Canada for that matter, we have received messages from people wanting to volunteer from SK, Vancouver, etc!)

If there is a will (to help), there is a way!  Check out one of these groups below that organize  group volunteer efforts.  If that doesn’t work out (due to high volumes of volunteer spirit in the city),  look more closely around you and help out a friend, family member or neighbour in need.  Remember, every little thing that you do counts.

As Mayor Nenshi said to the droves of volunteers who came out last Monday, “If you have friends or family who need help cleaning out their basement, if you know strangers who need help in their yards, just get out there and help, don’t wait to be asked.”

Organized volunteer efforts:

1. Canadian Global Response is working with the other NGOs in Alberta to formulate a unified, coordinated response, and will continue to inform as appropriate and as plans develop. Evacuation sites have received generous donations and are well stocked. For immediate inquiries, they request that you complete the following form, allowing their team to help coordinate recovery stage efforts by carefully matching skillsets to identified needs. FOR MORE INFORMATION, click here.

DONATIONS NEEDED! Items such as hard hats, shovels, pitchforks, 5-10 gallon buckets, wheelbarrows, etc. are needed for us to successfully launch volunteer eams. Check out the volunteer form below for their detailed wish list.

Brentview Baptist Church (3512 Charleswood Drive NW) near the University of Calgary has offered to be the staging area, allowing contacted volunteers and physical donations to gather at a centralized location. Volunteers will be collecting donations at Brentview Baptist Church on Thursday, June 27 (4:00-9:00pm) and Friday, June 28 (8:00am-3pm).


2. YYC Helps is run by a group of volunteers. They connect Calgarians who want to help other Calgarians in need assistance! Sign up on the website – they are collecting names and contact information for anyone wishing to volunteer with flood relief or clean up. Outreach for specific opportunities will be done via email.

TO VOLUNTEER: Register on their website and check out current volunteer opportunities posted.

3. Canadian Red Cross

The Canadian Red Cross is now accepting online registrations from local volunteers who are interested in helping with bulk distribution to communities affected by the recent flooding . The specific tasks will vary and may include lifting and moving assistance items.

If you live in the Calgary or the surrounding area affected by floods and are interested in registering for short term volunteering, please sign up on their website.

TO VOLUNTEER: Sign up on their website.


Let us know if you are aware of any other ways people can volunteer in the city! If you are a non-profit organization, please send a note to communications@volunteercalgary.ab.ca if you have volunteer needs/donation requests and we’ll  spread the word through our channels.

PLEASE FOLLOW us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/volunteercal)  and Facebook (www.facebook.com/volunteercalgary) for current donation needs/volunteer callouts.

BEFORE YOU VOLUNTEER, read the City of Calgary’s Flood Awareness Booklet, namely pages 14 – 21 for some helpful advice.

Thank you for volunteering and stay safe! 

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For those who want to donate, here’s a short, updated list of current needs.

Inn from the Cold Society

At the moment, their greatest need is not for donations of items (clothing, toys, toiletries, etc.), but for cash donations, as we will need to replenish their stock of food within the next few days and weeks. They are currently covering the costs associated with guests’ accommodations until they are able to provide them with shelter again. Donations of any denomination are greatly appreciated and can be quickly and easily made online.


They currently Socks and Men’s underwear are needed. Drop them off at 3751 21st St NE. They are not accepting donations due to high volume they have received and limited storage, but check their website in a week for needs.  

Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary

Several of the youth lost all their belongings in the flood and at this time we are accepting donations so they can replace what they lost. Contact Andy at atse@bgcc.ab.ca to make a donation.

Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter

To donate online go to http://www.calgarywomensshelter.com/donate or to drop off a donation or to get information on specific items needed, call the donation line at: (403) 539-5130. Please note: We are only able to accept new items.

Updated wish list: yoga pants(women, all sizes), white/black/navy collared shirts, Underwear, socks, bedroom slippers, PJs. Lip balm, individual kleenex packages, bus tix (women/youth), towels (white), paper plates, Quilts (double/single/queen), pillows (standard size), cutlery and extra large strong bags (families use for moving out belongings).

Canadian Global Response

Brentview Baptist Church (3512 Charleswood Drive NW) near the University of Calgary has offered to be our staging area, allowing contacted volunteers and physical donations to gather at a centralized location. Our volunteers will be collecting donations at Brentview Baptist Church on Thursday, June 27 (4:00-9:00pm) and Friday, June 28 (8:00am-3pm). Items such as hard hats, shovels, pitchforks, 5-10 gallon buckets, wheelbarrows, etc. are needed for us to successfully launch volunteer  teams. For a more detailed list about our equipment needs, see the volunteer form.

The Alex Community Health Centre

The Alex Community Health Centre report that a great number of their clients have been dislocated and they are in urgent need of hygiene items.

The following may be dropped off in the next several days at their facility at
101, 1318 Centre Street N 403.266.2622
Razors, Deodorant, Shampoo/conditioner, Shaving cream, Body wash/soap, Sunscreen,Tampons, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Combs/brushes 

Sunrise Community Link Resource Centre

The centre has put out a call for donations of non-perishable food items. Please call 403-204-8280. They are located at 3303 17 Ave SE 32 St SE.

Calgary Dream Centre

They currently have a high demand for: Socks, Underwear, Mens Clothing, Shoes, Work Boots, Frozen Foods, Coffee Mugs & meat.

The Calgary Dream Centre is also working as a donation centre for donations for ward 9, their wish list now also includes: Gloves, bags, shovels, small bins, masks, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, frozen burgers, hotdogs & buns If you are coordinating any volunteer activities and wish to have a location to meet & organize, please contact Chris Primeau @ cprimeau@calgarydreamcentre.com or 403-978-3909

If you are a non-profit organization and have any donation wish-lists, let us know and we will add your needs to this list. Email communications@volunteercalgary.ab.ca

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FYI: Pre-Loaded Debit Cards for those affected by floods

The Alberta government will give pre-loaded debit cards to Albertans who can’t return to their homes and communities. Those who qualify will receive $1,250 per adult and $500 per child, to help pay for the costs of being away from home.

You can get a card if you:

  • were issued an evacuation order, and
  • individually declare your inability to return home for a minimum of 7 days

More information on:   http://alberta.ca/Recoveryinformation.cfm

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