The local chapter of an international disaster recovery organization is looking to connect volunteers with flood impacted residents experiencing barriers in their recovery. Samaritan’s Purse, located in the Adelphi Hotel on Quilchena Avenue, is reaching out to the community for some volunteer strength. 

The local office is run by Recovery Specialists Sherry Peterson and Bobbi Labelle, two Merritt locals passionate about helping residents recover from the flooding event of November 2021. The organization has been in town since, and doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. 

Along with their daily workload of cases, Samaritan’s Purse is organizing a new effort to connect volunteers with seniors and those living with disabilities who are flood-impacted and experiencing physical challenges in their recovery. 

“Sherry and I have been going door-to-door, canvassing the area, and trying to see how our residents are doing in their recovery process,” said Labelle. “We’ve come across many seniors and disabled people who need the help – they can’t do anything because they don’t have any funds, or can’t move stuff because of their physical restrictions. That’s who we’re looking for help for.”

The volunteer opportunity requires a roughly three hour time commitment for each project, which are by invitation and never mandatory. Volunteer jobs include drywall installation, debris removal, lawn mowing, weed whacking, fence repairs, and more. Samaritan’s Purse will connect volunteers with those in need, provide refreshments, and, for safety, will provide waivers. 

Individuals, community groups, businesses, and sports teams are all invited to get involved in the new effort. Peterson noted that the community has the opportunity to be a part of the championing and overcoming of barriers for their flood impacted friends and neighbours, and she is hopeful the work will result in a more resilient and confident post-flood community.

“We’ve been asked to walk alongside the flood impacted residents, since the time of the flood, and our job is to help them recover by engaging an asset focused directive,” said Peterson. “In other words, whatever their strengths are, help them rediscover or discover them, because a lot of people are stressed because of the flood.” 

Along with providing what Peterson described as ‘psychological first aid,’ Samaritan’s Purse provides a listening ear for flood impacted residents. The two recovery specialists work to connect clients with resources, including a vast network of contacts belonging to the international organization.

Labelle noted that mental wellness is an often overlooked step in the recovery process, with trauma and grief going hand in hand in many cases. Grief can often go undetected while manifesting itself in the form of sleepless nights, agitation, aggression, and other symptoms. 

For more information on Samaritan’s Purse, including current volunteer opportunities, call Peterson at 250-574-4885 or Labelle at 250-574-4574.