A network of volunteers from across North America with the Mennonite Disaster Service is stationed at the Cariboo Bethel Church in Williams Lake to help rebuild three homes that were lost due to last summer’s wildfires.
“We are currently working on three houses in the Williams Lake and extended area-two of them are up in the Spokin Lake area and one is out in the Hanceville area,” says Ross Penner, director of Canadian operations, noting that the organization first visited Williams Lake in July 2017 after having been invited by local ministerial and government.
“Throughout this last winter, we’ve made several visits to see if there would be any need and possibility for Mennonite Disaster Service to come and help in the recovery process.”
“In recovery from disaster, our specialization and focus is getting homeowners back into their home. So sometimes it means repair, but frequently in fires that means rebuilding and we look for high needs, those people who for various reasons slipped through the cracks, maybe were unable to get insurance or didn’t have it, or were underinsured, and we also frequently look for those who have limited resources in rebuilding.”
Approximately 6-7 volunteers who have a variety of skills are working on each home per day.
“Our target for completion for two of the homes are going to be in September, and the third one possibly October,” says Penner.
“We’ll be looking at having home dedications when they are complete so that will be a celebration point for us.”
While volunteers work on the homes, Penner says they are keeping their ears and eyes open for other opportunities and other homeowners that they may be able to help.
“Our limiting factor is our volunteers and the number of volunteers that we would have,” he says.
“That would determine how much more work we might be able to take on either this building season or maybe we need to look to next year if there would be any more opportunities that would surface.”
Calling themselves blessed, Penner adds the reception from the community has been fabulous.
“Especially in the Cariboo Bethel Church congregation and the networks that they have opened up to us,” says Penner.
“The businesses, the local suppliers, when they hear what we are doing they have been so wonderfully generous in terms of giving us good prices, great assistance, and opening up their networks to us to find the particular trades or specialties that we might need from the community.”
“It’s been such a warm reception and a great place to work. We’ve been blessed by it.”