By Diana Coulter, Canadian Red Cross
November 14, 2014 – Chuck Shifflett’s house stood for more than a century in High River until last year’s floods nearly swept it into the history books.
But with a lot of love and determination, and some help from the Canadian Red Cross and its partners, Shifflett is slowly repairing the old house, hoping his family can return home.
Shifflett says his dream is possible, in part, because Red Cross is providing funds to Samaritan’s Purse, a non-profit organization helping with his reconstruction work.
Red Cross is currently funding Samaritan’s Purse, Habitat for Humanity, Mennonite Disaster Services and World Renew to help about 210 families in High River and the Calgary area who are still struggling to rebuild or repair their homes after the Alberta floods in June 2013. Around High River, the groups’ signs can be seen on lawns outside numerous homes currently under re-construction.
Shifflett is grateful Samaritan’s Purse helped with his drywall, paint and some carpentry costs, he says. In a studio behind the house, Shifflett makes his living repairing and rebuilding musical instruments, sometimes for famous clients like Ian Tyson, George Canyon and Jim Peace. Shifflett’s wife, Fay, is a teacher at a local school. But since the floods, the couple has also relied heavily on savings and credit, while renting and commuting daily from Nanton.
Shifflett admits his reconstruction bills are daunting, but he and his wife can’t bear to part with the home where they lived and raised two children for 22 years. They’re also trying to preserve a piece of town history. Built in 1907, the house was the first site of a “cottage hospital” operated by local midwives.
“I’m just a historic kind of guy. We worked on the place for years, thinking we would never move. We had finally finished just before the floods, but now we basically had to start again,” says Shifflett. Flood waters swamped the foundation and rose above first-floor window sills. Since last year, the house has been lifted while a new, higher foundation was constructed. Red Cross helped pay for a new furnace and water heater to prevent winter damage, and Shifflett has worked on repairing the place almost daily.
Shifflett said many other High River families are still reeling from the disaster more than a year later. “The vibe is complicated here, but personally I am just so tired of the level of angst we can feel. Some days, I’m sure that I leave a trail of blood behind me. You can feel so angry and stressed.”
“But Red Cross has been really good to us and so many others in town. Whether it’s been cash for gas in the early days or supporting these construction projects now, Red Cross help has been timely and very much appreciated.”