Volunteers flock to help embattled Sask. town

Mayor praises efforts | Thousands of volunteers help Borden, Sask., with sandbagging, flood fighting

BORDEN, Sask. — A massive outpouring of volunteerism has helped stave off flooding disaster in the village of Borden.


More than 1,000 people have come forward to lend a hand since the village declared a state of emergency April 29. Mayor Dave Buckingham said the community would have been overrun with water without their support.


“We’ve had a tremendous amount of volunteer support, that’s for sure,” he said.


“Without the help, we would have been in much, much more dire straits. We would have had severe flooding in housing whereas now, with the sandbagging, we’ve mitigated that. Even our lift station would have been flooded without all the sand bagging.”


People have come from across the province. Volunteer fire departments arrived from Langham, Dalmeny, Warman, Martensville, Osler and Hepburn. Several area schools pitched in filling sand bags by the thousands.


“I think we’re around 50,000 sand bags, maybe higher now,” said Buckingham.


Helping fill those bags May 2 were 35 students, their teachers and even the bus driver from Perdue School.


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Bus driver John Daum arrived at school that morning not knowing he would spend his day in Borden on the sandbag crew. Daum, who is a farmer, said he recognized that the same crisis could happen to him. He’s not surprised at the amount of goodwill extended to Borden.


“Saskatchewan is one big community. We stick together. When the job has to get done, Saskatchewan will get her done without complaint,” he said.


Meghan Nicholls, 12, is also from a farm. She said volunteering has shown her and her classmates how much work is involved in an emergency.


“It could have been my community. Volunteering means a lot because I get to help out other people in their community and if it was ours it would be quite hard to see that happening,” she said.


Teacher Josh Hindmarsh said the students impressed him.


“Some are a little tired because they’re not used to hard labour, but overall the students have responded well. I think being part of something big like this, they understand what’s happening and what it would look like in their community if there was flooding.”


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He was impressed at the leadership skills shown by the school’s farm kids.


“The city kids are doing good, but you can tell the students who are from the farm who do this work regularly,” he said.


“They know how to use a shovel and they understand machinery, where to put things, how to stack things,” he said.


Brenda Roenspies was in her newly renovated kitchen baking a birthday cake for her husband, Rod, April 29. At 1:30 p.m., she looked out the window to see water rapidly moving toward the house.


A group of volunteers soon arrived to help the elderly couple move the contents of their basement to the first floor. Their quick work saved two deep freezers full of food and a new washer and dryer. By 4:30, the water had risen past the water bladders surrounding their home and was flooding the basement. They had to row their boat back to their truck parked on the road.


“I was just grateful for the help we got. I was really amazed at how fast they got everything up. You’re kind of in a state of shock because you don’t know what to take or how long you have to be away,” Roenspies said.


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“This emergency brought out the best in people. This has always been a really great community. We’ve always felt welcome and the people have been great.”