In late June 2013, George Canyon and his wife Jennifer initiated a clean-up crew to go out into the community of High River, Alberta, and go door-to-door to offer residents assistance. With a busy celebrity schedule, it was more than refreshing to see an iconic star and his beautiful wife getting their hands dirty to help others in the aftermath of the catastrophic flooding that overtook the town of High River. In the wake of the disaster, the Canyon’s efforts are exactly what the town needs: a group to spearhead volunteer support and organize the particulars residents need most. I caught up with Jennifer recently to discuss this giant undertaking and the Team Canyon Cleanup:
Can you please tell me about your High River flood relief efforts?
JC – The flood relief efforts are something that my husband, George started. We talked about it quite a bit once things started happening and of course, we couldn’t get into the town at first. But we knew we needed to start organizing help. We knew there were going to be a lot of people who needed assistance. It began with “Team Canyon,” then we joined efforts with Mission Possible 2 – another group who came out to High River to keep the volunteerism going. Altogether we want to try and get as many people out to High River and to each house, as we possibly can.
What is “Mission Possible?”
JC – Mission Possible started in Calgary, with the flood victims there. Then Mission Possible 2 was the group created to come out to High River.
Why did Team Canyon Cleanup start?
JC – We knew how many people were gonna need help. We were far enough away from the flood but we could see it from our back door. We kept talking to people, we knew how severe the situation was because we had a family staying with us who were evacuated. We knew how bad they were going to need help but officials weren’t letting anybody in at that time. So we realized we had to start organizing a group to be prepared as soon as the residents were allowed access to the town again.
How many volunteers have signed up for Team Canyon Cleanup to date?
JC – We have 450 Volunteers now! Everyone has different times at which they can come – some people are working during the week and can only come on weekends. Or some can come in the evenings, and some can come whenever. So it’s a matter of organizing that. The coordination of who goes in when, is done mostly between George, Mission Possible 2 and our assistant, Karen.
The thing is, after we started talking about the clean-up the more we realized we found we were spending too much time organizing and not enough time actually being in the town working. So we got in there and said, “Come and get your proper gear and get in here.” Of course, we’re still appealing to the public for assistance. People are desperate for help.
Do you provide volunteers with clean-up gear?
JC – Volunteers can bring their own gear or Mission Possible 2 provides supplies too, things like rubber gloves and masks. Volunteers must bring their own rubber boots, however.
How do volunteers involved with Team Canyon Cleanup get into High River?
JC – They had originally started with a school bus that was bringing people and then when George went in there to work he realized it was difficult with a bus. They do want everybody to carpool because the streets in town are crowded. They’re packed with garbage and dumpsters. So George worked with Okotoks Keith GM and they provided a van to transport people instead. It’s easier to get around town with a van, than with a bus.
Can you please tell me about your partnership with Trail Appliances?
JC – In the first few days that people were getting back into High River, we realized there were many people who might require a new fridge. The folks who were staying with us were green (their house luckily wasn’t damaged by the flood), but still they needed a new fridge. Their old appliance was toast because of all the food that had been sitting in it in the hot weather, for the entire time the town was evacuated and the power was out. Their neighbor next door who did have a huge amount of water in their house needed a new fridge too. Pretty much everyone in High River needed a new fridge.
A fridge was the essential thing that could get people back in their houses. In theory, they could get a washer or dryer later on. But to be able to live in their houses again, they needed access to refrigerated food immediately. The fridges from Trail Appliances are just basic white refrigerators with a freezer on top. However, they are being offered to flood victims at cost and can be delivered if need be.
When my friend told me about the trouble with her fridge, I thought “I’m going to call Trail Appliances,” because we have dealt with them on a personal level. I wanted to see if they would be interested in bringing fridges out to people in High River because I knew there were so many people who didn’t have a truck. Or perhaps they were seniors, or physically unable to go out and get themselves a new fridge. There are other cases of people who just want to spend their time cleaning their house up, instead of going out and dealing with having to buy a new appliance. So I called Trail Appliances and before I could even finish my sentence they said, “Absolutely.”
The next day they had two trucks full of fridges out to the town and we sold out in about an hour and a half!
Did that surprise you?
JC – It really surprised me. I knew people needed fridges, but I wasn’t sure what the turn-out would be.
How long is Team Canyon Cleanup committed to serving High River residents?
JC – Our goal is to stick with it. It’s been quoted several times that this is a “marathon.” This is something that will be ongoing for months and possibly years. People will need help for a long time. We’re there to help as long as people need us.
Team Canyon and Trail Appliances of Calgary will have another truck load of new refrigerators for High River residents in need of a new fridge, on Wednesday July 10! Beginning at 10:00 AM in the parking lot of West Side Gravel, just north across from the High River Rodeo Grounds, Trail Appliances will be bringing out a limited stock of refrigerators, available for purchase for those who are affected by the flood. Available will be basic fridges with a freezer on top and delivery will be available if needed. They will be sold on a first come, first serve basis.
And if you’re interested in joining Team Canyon Cleanup please email: [email protected]