The Daily Gleaner
October 6, 2008
Shelley Jones was expecting rotten wood, soggy drywall and mould
when she volunteered to help clean up homes flooded by the St. John
But the Fredericton native wasn't expecting the tears and the look
of defeat on the faces of the people she's encountered since the
"The emotional aftermath is a lot worse than anyone could've
expected," Jones said. "Some days, you witness such devastation
that even though it's not your home, you feel sad. It's been tough
on the homeowners and even the volunteers."
Many homes affected by the flood are hundreds of years old, Jones
said. And the same families have lived in them for
"It's hard to just go in, clean up what you can and then leave,"
she said. "Houses are being condemned and some people have lost the
only home they've ever known. It's difficult to just walk away from
Jones was grateful when the Rapid Response Team came to
The volunteer group of chaplains has been visiting low-lying areas
to help with the emotional impact of flooding.
Mark Hidlebaugh and his wife Barbara are part of that team.
And they aren't strangers to natural disasters.
The Winnipeg couple has traveled the world to help communities
affected by flooding, hurricanes and tornados.
Hidlebaugh said they got on the first available plane to
Fredericton when they heard about the flooding in New
"What we do is make ourselves available to people who need to
talk," Hidlebaugh said. "Sometimes people just need an ear. A
natural disaster is a tough thing to go through. We aren't
psychologists but we are here if people need to talk."
The Rapid Response Team is part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association of Canada. But Hidlebaugh said disaster relief isn't
just about religion.
Team members are available to people of all denominations, even
those who don't consider themselves religious.
"You wouldn't think something as simple as having someone to talk
to would help, but I've seen the benefits of having this team
around," Jones said. "They talked with volunteers and homeowners
stressed by the flood damage and have been really helpful.
"It's shown me the importance of taking care of people's emotional
needs in times like this too."
Hidlebaugh said most of the people he has met in New Brunswick are
looking for spiritual guidance or someone to talk to about their
But a few have shown signs of extreme frustration, substance
abuse, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, he
"When that happens, we don't mess around," Hidlebaugh said. "We
don't have any problem referring people to someone more qualified
Jones said she wouldn't be able to continue volunteering if it
weren't for the Rapid Response Team.
It's too hard to move on to the next house when the homeowner
looks so devastated, she said.
"It can't be easy to experience such destruction caused by
flooding, but it also can't be easy having strangers come in to rip
up your walls and your floors and throw out your possessions,"
Jones said. "I think we can lessen that some if we continue to deal
with emotional, mental and physical cleanup all at once."
Hidlebaugh said he's happy to help. It's his calling in
"If I can ease someone's pain by praying with them or relieve
their stress by just letting them talk, then that's what I will
do," he said.
For help with cleaning up or for emotional support, contact the
Samaritan's Purse Canada or the Rapid Response Team at
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada