Marilynne Lesperance has seen the waters flood Minden’s streets before.
With the municipality in a state of emergency, the recent retiree leapt back into the fray to co-ordinate the Minden Food Bank’s flood relief efforts, as she did back in 2017. She is tasked with helping to feed volunteers, who have been bagging and delivering sand.
“I have the experience and I knew what had to be done. It’s just not in my DNA to stop when somebody’s in need,” Lesperance said. “I have an incredible team of volunteers that work with me,.”
The water levels continue to rise in the community continually tested by floods. It was expected earlier this week the levels could approach the 2017 flood. But with heavy rains now moving through the area, Mayor Brent Devolin said it could get as bad as the 2013 flood, which is the assumption the town is operating under.
“It pushes us into the realm that people will choose to get out of their homes,” Devolin said. “As we go up toward 2013, then the loss and the number (of homes) that are damaged exponentially increases with every five centimetres of water rise.”
Devolin said there would be a clearer idea of the trajectory of this flood event after the rains pass.
In the meantime, volunteers are working hard to get sandbags throughout Minden. Devolin said the community produced 10,000 bags April 25.
“We live in a pretty caring community,” Devolin said. “It’s just amazing the people that come out and support. We have people that can’t come and help out physically that are buying sandbags on Amazon and having them delivered to our municipality property. It’s unbelievable.”
Gary Johnson volunteered, helping to bag sand as part of the Algonquin Highlands Fire Department.
“It’s great to have people like this in your community,” Johnson said of the volunteer efforts. “It’s good that they’re organized in what they’re doing … it’s unfortunate that we’re having to do this (but) people, they know we have to do something.”
In the midst of the third major flooding event in six years, Devolin said they have hit the community hard, both financially and mentally.
“It takes a toll emotionally on people, mental health. ‘Not again,’ I can see it in them,” Devolin said. “I’m talking as an individual, not as a mayor. I’ve seen my friends and neighbours on my street and do I think it has some of the elements of PTSD effect on their well-being? Yes, it does.”
Lesperance said the 2017 flood has helped people prepare for this one and relief efforts have been much better organized.
She called the volunteering “phenomenal.”
“The town has come together,” Lesperance said. “It’s just an incredible experience to work with those guys … we’re here to help them and the town who supports us year-round.”
Those looking to volunteer can contact the food bank at (705) 286-6838 or the township’s recovery/event co-ordinator at 705-286-1260 ext. 211 or after hours at 1-866-856-3247