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For the past six months, Andrea DeMeer has had a bird’s-eye view of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) work in Princeton, B.C.

DeMeer, publisher and editor of the Similkameen Spotlight in the southern interior town, lives on Fenchurch St. near downtown.

The street, which dead-ends near the confluence of the Tulameen and the Similkameen rivers, was devastated by flooding in November 2021.

Water in the two rivers overtopped dikes, rising to three metres/six feet on the street and submerging houses.

DeMeer lives in a second-floor apartment, along with her husband and son. Her home was unscathed, but the first floor was heavily damaged and their vehicles were submerged.

“We had to leave the building by boat,” she said.

They lived in temporary housing until mid-March, when the landlord finished repairs. Then, from her balcony, DeMeer watched MDS volunteers busily working on nearby houses.

To show her appreciation, she hung a sign on her balcony saying, “Thank you Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers. Princeton is so grateful for your help and friendship.”

“I had the sign made after I witnessed all the work that was going on on my street,” she said.

She had the sign made at a local business.

“The business gave it to me for free, and the owner also printed one for herself and put it in her window,” she said, adding “it was really nice seeing the volunteers smile when they saw it.”

In addition to watching the volunteers from her balcony, DeMeer would go down to meet them.

“Thank you Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers. Princeton is so grateful for your help and friendship.”

— Andrea DeMeer

“All my interactions with the volunteers were positive and hopeful,” she said. “I met so many wonderful people. Everyone I met was just stellar. It is easy to forget there are people like that in the world.”

A few people in town were initially skeptical about MDS’s motive when the organization arrived, she said—they believed MDS had really come to Princeton to “save our souls.”

When someone said that her, she would reply: “’They aren’t here to save your soul. They are here to save your street.’”

As the work progressed, it didn’t take long for people “to come around and appreciate what MDS was doing,” she said.

In addition to her sign, DeMeer expressed verbal appreciation for the work of the volunteers.

“Many of the houses on my street would have never been rebuilt without MDS,” she said, adding “MDS is leaving houses here in better shape than before the flood. The work the volunteers did was amazing.”

The MDS project in Princeton is now closed. A total of 134 people from across Canada served with MDS in Princeton from December 2021 to mid-August, this year, repairing 40 houses.

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications


MDS is still active in B.C., rebuilding four houses destroyed by wildfire in Monte Lake. More volunteers are needed there through fall; go here to learn more.

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