As B.C. remembers the floods that dominated the Lower Mainland last year, Shannon Jones, the former executive director of AdvantageHOPE, reflects on how the community of Hope came together to help those affected by the crisis.
“When Highway 7 opened up and everyone could convoy out, there was a Facebook page… And there was one comment that just stuck with me since then,” says Jones. “It was from a person who had been stuck here. They said, ‘I want to thank all the residents, and businesses, of Hope for opening up your homes while you were in a crisis yourself.’ And I thought, ‘oh my gosh, we’re in crisis too.’ It hadn’t even crossed my mind. All we thought about was all the poor people that were stuck here.
“And I think that perfectly explains the minds of this town and how they help people. Because we didn’t even take the time to realize that we were in our own crisis. It was just, “how can we help these people who are stranded here’?”
Jones, who spent the flood working overtime through AdvantageHOPE to ensure the safety of the many visitors stranded in Hope, says that realization made her truly proud to be a member of the Hope community. She’s also grateful she, and AdvantageHOPE, were able to help as much as they did. Under Jones’s directions, AdvantageHOPE organized and coordinated the arrival and delivery of supplies — such as food and blankets — as well as finding ways to provide shelter to people during the floods. Working with the organization, local businesses were also able to lend a hand and donate what they could as people took refuge in town. She also personally delivered food to people unable to reach the Hope and Area Recreation Centre, which was housing emergency supplies and food.
One moment that still sticks out to Jones during this time, was when she delivered supplies to a young mother and her baby who had to be quickly evacuated from their home.
“She told me that she just wanted to have a bath. And she was full of dirt from trying to get out so quickly. So I came home and I got laundry detergent. I got shampoo and body wash. And I took it back to her. And she just cried. She sent me messages over and over again of hearts. She [said] ‘you have no idea how much that shower meant to me.’ It was just a simple thing to do…but it made a really big difference to people.”
Aside from the work put out by the community, to help one another, Jones says that recognition needs to be given to the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX) workers.
“They were instrumental in the response time to infrastructure damage, preventing damage, emergency response — even when we had snowfall in December last year, which was the most we had in 25 years, they were out there with their plows.”
Because of the Lytton fires in the summer of 2021, Jones says that AdvantageHOPE already had a plan in place to deal with emergency situations. While she is grateful the organization was able to step in and help, she says it is uncomfortable to realize how prepared they are in case another atmospheric event happens.
In fact, Jones says that the floods drew a clear spotlight on how important communication between community leaders and the people is. She hopes that, going forward, community leaders will understand the roles they play especially with regards to making residents safe during a time of crisis.
“I have so many thoughts. I have thoughts of pride. I have thoughts of fear. Even still now I get [emotional] about it,” says Jones. “When I hear a helicopter now, I think about that time. Because helicopters were going over the town every minute. Back and forth…I get a little bit of feeling of anxiety. Because it was a constant reminder that we were sitting in the situation feeling unsafe.”