Mr. Rogers said it best about finding comfort when you see scary images on the news — look for the helpers: “You will always find people who are helping.” While thousands of homes in and around Montreal have been evacuated due to rising floodwaters, thousands of others have been saved thanks to the efforts of volunteers. As one West Island mayor declared on Monday, it’s enough to restore your faith in humanity.
“If ever you had any doubt about human nature, see people in action when it comes to helping each other,” Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa said. “My heart is exploding, my community is so fantastic.”
Hundreds of residents including adults and children took the day off to volunteer on Ile Bizard, filling sandbags instead of sitting back and watching the chaos unfold from home.
“That’s the thing — you sit at home and feel helpless, but then realize, you can help,” Goeff Kalil said.
Dozens of volunteers formed a human chain in the town hall parking lot to speed up the sandbagging process.
“To see the community come together, it’s unbelievable,” Claudia Leonardi said. “I never thought that the West Island could get together like this.”
One Pierrefonds family who lives just 500 metres from the flood is counting their blessings while taking time to lend a helping hand. They’re spending the day delivering a trunkful of food and water.
“My dad told me yesterday, if we don’t have school tomorrow, we’re going to get food for the military and give them food because they need it,” 10-year-old Daniel Gaetano said.
It’s a small gesture that his sister hopes will help make a big difference.
“We’re helping out people with no homes, and we’re helping out people that are helping out other people,” Savana Gaetano said.
While most of the goods in the Gaetanos’ car are destined for flood victims, a big portion is heading to feed the troops working along Rivière-des-Prairies.
“It’s very heartwarming to have people come here to give us food and to bring us comfort,” Capt. Pierre Leblanc of the Canadian Armed Forces said. “Soldiers are working night and day, and it’s very snowy and cold today so it’s going to be very helpful for them.”
Volunteers are also flocking to Fairview in Pointe-Claire to donate food and clothing.
“We’re looking for people to drop off and pick up food, anyone who is a victim of the situation,” CF Fairview Pointe-Claire general manager Mathieu Demers said.
The mall is collecting goods in what used to be an empty store near the Sears entrance, and there’s no shortage of generosity.
“Luckily, I was one of the ones that wasn’t hit — all the roads are blocked so I saw I needed to help somehow,” Sadaf Sadighi said. “I had a lot of food, I had a lot of clothes to give away so I figured that’s the first thing I could get done.”
It’s a productive way to spend a day off of work or school, and the perfect occasion to teach some important life lessons to the next generation.