Reservists Respond to Colorado Flooding

October 29, 2013

Glenda on CanteenIn mid-September, near-record rainfall caused unprecedented flooding in 24 Colorado counties.  Water that cascaded out of the Rockies damaged nearly 2500 square miles, killed nine people, destroyed hundreds of miles of roads and totally cut off small mountain towns.  Some reports are calling the event the “100-year flood.”

Hope Force International's national partner, The Salvation Army, requested help from Hope Force International, and several from our Reservist ranks responded to the great needs in Boulder and small towns north of Denver. 

For 3 weeks, Hope Force Reservists from 9 states assisted in relief efforts -- sorting donations in the warehouse, driving truckloads of supplies, preparing meals on mobile canteen units and providing emotional and spiritual care to flood survivors.   When HFI Reservists head for deployments, they know that change is the norm…that the unexpected often happens, and expectations are best left at home! 

Ohio Reservist, Stu Raynor -- a licensed therapist, served with the Red Cross as a mental health caregiver.  He discovered that the scope of flooding was much greater than he viewed on television news reports.  With a number of residents in tears, and overwhelmed by the stresses of trying to move forward, Stu focused on one thing:  trying to “normalize” each individual’s situation and giving them hope with some simple forward steps. 

Veteran HFI Reservist, Glenda Alexander, landed in Colorado with the challenging assignment of running a food canteen.   Expecting to serve flood survivors in Boulder, she found herself serving meals to a large homeless population located there.  As she pondered and readjusted expectations, she sensed God nudging her:  ”Serve as if you are washing their feet.”

Glenda in Boulder on canteenOver the course of days, many of the “faces” became friends to Glenda…calling her by name and smiling when she handed them a cup of coffee or plate of hot food.  While preparing lunch, she glanced out the window to notice a homeless man wobbling by on his bike.  In the very next moment, he crashed into a signpost and ended up on the ground with injuries that required immediate help.  As a licensed EMT, Glenda quickly jumped into action, coming alongside the man, requesting an ambulance, and providing stabilizing care until paramedics arrived.  One never knows what a day on an HFI deployment with bring!

Glenda explained, “Psalm 89:15 became my banner:  ‘Blessed are those whom have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence Lord.’  As my team unconditionally served, they learned again how simple acts, offered in love, express the heart of God for those He values…even without spoken words.’ ”

Glenda’s team spent a second week in a tiny community north of Denver that had received no help for 7 days.  Largely a population of farm workers living in trailer homes damaged by the floodwaters, the community expressed deep gratitude for the food service.  The regular presence of the mobile canteen, with familiar faces serving food and a steady schedule, helped bring a sense of stability as the families began the slow process of re-building and recovering.

Ken Cavallero, Emergency Disaster Services Manager for The Salvation Army's Western Territory, stated "I want to tell you that the Hope Force volunteers who deployed to Colorado were outstanding and filled some vital roles. Having your volunteers working alongside our disaster responders allowed us to meet the needs of the disaster. The Hope Force volunteers' quick response and willingness to fill in where needed is greatly appreciated."


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