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Ben Lomond of Sydney Mines in his house

When Ben Lomond of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, saw what Hurricane Fiona had done to his house, “I was sick.”

The storm tore shingles off the old coal mining company house and rain leaked through the holes into the interior.

“The wind was howling,” he said of the storm. “The water damaged the walls and ceilings. They buckled and fell in. It was bad.”

Without insurance, the 56-year-old, who is on a disability pension due to Crohn’s disease and osteoarthritis, didn’t know what he was going to do.

“It’s hard enough to get by as it is, without that happening, too,” he said.

The water soaked the insulation, rendering it useless. To stay warm last winter in his over 100-year-old miner’s house, Lomond sealed off the second floor and heated only the living room, where he lived, to keep his heating bill down.

When he heard about Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), he put his name in for help. His application came late, just before the organization finished up in Cape Breton.

Ben Lomond outside his house in Sydney Mines

“I told them I would take any help they could provide,” he said.

In late August, Ben’s was the last house the organization worked on Cape Breton Island before ending its service there. Volunteers were busy putting up insulation and drywall upstairs and doing yard clean-up.

“It feels great to have the volunteers here,” Lomond said, lending a hand whenever he could. “I’ll pitch in, darn right,” he said. “I told them, if you need a hand, just holler. I can’t stand around and watch them work. I want to help in any way I can.”

And if he can’t help, “I just try not to get in the way,” he said with a laugh.

Knowing his is the last house MDS will work on before it leaves is also significant.

“It’s a blessing to have help,” he said, adding the coming winter will be “much better” than the last one, now that his house is repaired.

“It’s a great relief to have help from MDS. The volunteers are wonderful. They want to do everything they can,” he said.

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications


A total of 458 volunteers from across Canada provided over 32,000 hours of service for 272 families and community organizations in Cape Breton in response to Hurricane Fiona. This included repairs to 44 houses, 28 new roofs or roof repairs and 179 tree-cutting and clean up jobs. Read about the August 24 closing celebration.


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