Friday, March 27, 2009

Haldimand "Flood Committee Appointed"

Flood committee starts work next week

Nine volunteers bring wide variety of talent to relief efforts

Posted By KAREN BEST ,
Posted 15 hours ago

Haldimand County council unanimously agreed to a slate of volunteers who will guide disaster relief over the rest of the year.

"I'm just very pleased with the abilities of these people," said Coun. Lorne Boyko. "The cross section of the folks who have been appointed - that's a terrific talent pool."

In a special council meeting on March 23, council members discussed proposed membership of the county's disaster relief committee.

"There was unanimous support," reported Boyko. "The selection process went without a hitch. Everybody was on side. It was nice to see that refreshing spirit of cooperation."

Coun. Buck Sloat was glad to see relief efforts moved from the political to the community volunteer level.

A day after council's decision, municipal advisor Maureen Beatty of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs contacted Dunnville resident Kim Hessels. She told The Chronicle that the ministry has tentatively scheduled launching the committee on March 30.

At that meeting, the ministry will outline responsibilities which include fundraising, advertising for relief applications, reviewing requests and settling eligible claims for flood damage. A bank account will be opened for donations and tax receipts will be provided.

Along with Hessels, the other committee members from Dunnville are Bernie Corbett, Brett Kelly, Joanne Falletta and Ken Egger. They will work with Donna Pitcher of South Cayuga, Don Edwards of Caledonia, Victoria Young of Cayuga and Marie Maas of Fisherville.

The nine committee members will carry out relief efforts through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.

Based on reports by ministry staff and an insurance adjuster, Municipal Affairs Minister Jim Watson declared on March 13 a provincial disaster in flooded zones from the Cayuga bridge to Port Maitland. Six days later ministry officials asked council members to appoint the committee as soon as possible so fundraising efforts can begin while the effects of flooding were fresh on people's minds.

"The whole program is only as successful as the fundraising campaign," ministry local government manager Roger Moyer told council.

For members of the committee, success is rooted in their intention to help. Some witnessed the fury of river flooding first hand.

On Feb. 13, Bernie Corbett was walking with a friend in the lower river marsh when the water swiftly rose.

"Where there was dry land I was walking in water up to my knees," he told The Chronicle a day after he notified of his appointment to the committee. "For all my years in Dunnville, I have never seen water come up so high."

He knew this resulted in considerable damage along the Grand River.

"If I can be of assistance in ensuring (flood victims) get help, I would be glad to do that," said Corbett.

He wondered if a monetary figure could be put on volunteer work and materials provided for repairing the home of Lynn and Blair White.

Based on information provided by Moyer, material donations will not be eligible for matching provincial funding.

Corbett, who is a retired Stelco employee, will bring three decades of municipal government experience to the committee. For six years, he was a Town of Dunnville employee. He spent time working as the deputy clerk-treasurer, welfare administrator and secretary of the committee of adjustment before working for six years as a regional social services field worker.
In 1983, Corbett was elected as ward councillor and served for three consecutive terms. After a term as mayor, he was elected as a regional councillor and then a ward councillor. In 2000, he stepped down from council to serve on the Haldimand Norfolk transition board which dismantled the former Haldimand Norfolk region to create two counties.

For more than five years, he was a member of the Haldimand County Hydro board including a term as chair.

While volunteering at the White home, Joanne Falletta, who is an Investors Group consultant, was asked by Dunnville Chamber of Commerce president Carolyn Chymko to consider sitting on the disaster committee.

Falletta agreed. It's all about helping the community and showing support, the chamber member told The Chronicle.

"I'm always happy to help. We'll see what can be done," she said.

Around supper time on Feb. 13, Falletta was returning from St. Catharines and managed to get through Broad Street near Brant Street as it was filling up with water. Emergency workers were getting ready to close the street, she recalled.

The day before council appointed her, she was at the White's home moving damaged items in preparation for the free large garbage pick up on March 28.

With lots of experience in assorted fundraising events, Falletta was eager to drive some of those for the relief effort.

She wanted to see the first fundraising event happen as soon as possible and will pursue opportunities over the next few weeks.

When a call went out for construction material donations and volunteer labour, Donna Pitcher bought insulation and showed up ready to work on March 14, a month after the water receded from the White's home.

"I was humbled by helping the Whites and by seeing how difficult it was for Lynn to handle all this help," said Pitcher who, like other members, is honoured to be on the relief committee.

A few days after that work bee, she dropped by to leave Lynn a stress relief kit.

When Pitcher heard about council's unanimous decision about committee members, she was choked up. "It proves the point that people can set aside their personal feelings and do the right thing," she said.

For her, volunteering on the committee was a simple matter of helping out neighbours. "I just think it's just the right thing to do. I hope we can accomplish our task in one year," she added.

Based on the preliminary estimate of $1.7 million in flood damages, the committee faces the unbelievable target of raising $600,000, she pointed out. The provincial government will match each dollar raised by at least $1.70.

She said the county's share of damage relief cannot be raised just by the local community but she was ready to put her shoulder against what looked like a daunting task.

"I will give everything I can," stated Pitcher. "When I get involved in something, I give it my all."

In 2004 and 2005, she was instrumental in launching a petition and building community support for retention of the municipality's Haldimand County Hydro company. Council dropped its effort to sell the utility in February 2005.

When she sits down with the other eight committee members, she will bring her communications skills and years of sales experience.

"I'm not afraid to ask for things. When it comes to other people who are in need, I shine," she told The Chronicle. "My responsibility is to make people understand the need is there. With this list of people (on the committee), this will run very smoothly."

Victoria Young saw river flats disappear under high water on Feb. 13 so she was not surprised to hear about the extent of damages to seasonal and permanent residences in Cayuga and Dunnville. "I called Buck (Sloat) after the flood to see what I could do," she said.

When the search began for disaster relief committee members, he called her and she agreed to serve. "It's the right thing do do," Young told The Chronicle adding that she is prepared to expend the time and effort required on committee work.

"For me, it was a opportunity to help rebuild what Mother Nature has taken away from us," she said.

A Cayuga Chamber of Commerce director, Young said this organization is looking at ways to help people whose cottages and trailers were damaged. Seasonal accommodations are not eligible for provincial financial assistance.

Sloat was also ready to get behind efforts to help the ineligible victims and mentioned that the chamber will host a benefit event for them.

In an effort to prevent damage to boaters this spring, he asked county staff to request the Grand River Conservation Authority to issue a warning about floating debris in the river.

Self-described as an issue spotter, Young will read the situation and niches selected by other committee members and then fill in where the need is. And she does not want to waste any time on getting started. "Every day is another day lost," she added.

After Coun. Don Ricker asked her about joining the committee, Kim Hessels did not expect to be selected. Hearing she was a member was a pleasant surprise.

"I think that something needs to be done for the people affected by the flood," she said. "This is just a great close knit community and I help where I can. I am honoured to be involved."
A mother of three children under 12 years of age, she will juggle her time to meet responsibilities with them and the committee. An active member of her church, Hessels will also draw on her community experience as president of the Dunnville Right to Life Association and earlier work with a homeless shelter in St. Catharines.

Along with her community experience, she will bring business skills grown in her family's company, Hessels Farm Supply Ltd. Hessels described herself as a grain merchandiser. "I'm used to working with people at a charitable and business level," she said.

After returning her call to Beatty of the municipal affairs ministry on March 25, Hessels committed to attend the committee's inaugural meeting on March 30. "What's most important is getting moving on it," she said of relief efforts.

Brett Kelly has worked for the Ontario government for years. He is currently employed in the health care and screening division of the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Don Edwards has participated in volunteer efforts at the West Haldimand General Hospital and is a staff member at the local office of Haldimand Norfolk MP Diane Finley.

Article ID# 1497672


  1. Congrats Donna!

  2. Congratulations to all of you who stepped up to the plate for a very worthwhile cause. You will have no problem raising money because you are all honest and well respected. We also know that our donations will not sit in any General Coffers of Haldimand County and disappear at a later date. We commend and support everyone on this committee. GO TO IT GUYS WITH OUR BLESSINGS.

  3. I agree with the above! This comment by Sloat, "Coun. Buck Sloat was glad to see relief efforts moved from the political to the community volunteer level." Is one of the best things I have heard him say in sometime. It is good to see that Council has finally made a good decision on behalf of the residents of Haldimand County. Keep up the good work Donna.