Volunteering in times of crisis

When Knighton flooded earlier this year, a massive volunteer effort was co-ordinated to supported residents. Louise Hardwick tells the story for Volunteers' Week.

Rescue crew with rescued family in Knighton

On Sunday 16th February, 2020, our little town was hit very badly by horrendous floods. I was reading reports on social media and watching videos of how the emergency crews had been out since almost midnight, trying to save people’s homes and ensure the safety of everyone. At about 9 am I was desperate to help in anyway – I took a case of water and snacks to the fire crew from my garage.

Then I messaged my two supervisors at work at the Community Centre to see if we should open the centre – we had recently discussed us being a designated shelter. My colleague messaged me soon after asking the same and after ringing around got the go ahead from our treasurer to open the centre.
My colleague came down and I went via the local supermarket on the way in – purchasing milk, bread, and biscuits etc…. I had asked her to put up a post on our Community Centre page stating we would be opening within half an hour and that anyone affected or emergency crews/volunteers could gladly come and seek shelter, hot food and drinks and use the facilities if needed. The word spread very rapidly. On my arrival at the centre my uncle had seen the post and had arrived to help out, setting out tables and chairs to help make a café/welcoming area. Kettles and urns on, tea cups out and ready. Our local scouting leader also arrived to help.

Our treasurer had contacted members of the local town council, they arrived at the hall shortly after. A local café owner spent most of her afternoon here with several of our hall volunteers making sandwiches, cups of tea and a shoulder for people to lean on.

I had then gone to the firemen again to advise them that we were now open and also ask what we could do to help. They stated they needed help filling sandbags – they had already contacted the owner of the local Builder’s merchants and he was on his way to open up. I again posted onto social media immediately the need for volunteers to fill sandbags and this again went viral. Probably about 40-50 people turned up armed with shovels and willingness. Kids were filling sandbags, mum’s were tying them up and dad’s were transporting them in the back of their vehicles to the needed locations around the town, thus allowing the fire crews the time they needed to keep the situation at bay as best they could.

I was inundated with messages with offers of help – from coming to help serve refreshments, to cooking people meals, offering rooms in their own houses, people bringing down blankets and towels, I took down all of their details and had them on standby. Our County Councillor contacted the local furniture barn and then I coordinated with two of their representatives should anyone be needing furniture, bedding etc. Even had an offer from the local business who make the lifeboat tractors which go in the sea that we could use them if we needed for rescuing, this information was passed along to the fire crews. We had offered to stay open through the night should anyone need shelter – fortunately this was not needed as the families ended up staying with friends or remaining in the upstairs of their homes as they felt they couldn’t leave.

There was a family visiting town from South Wales who came in as there was no way for them to return home that day. Fire crews were fed and watered, one of the families (with a 2 year old boy) were finally rescued by boat mid afternoon, they came to the centre and were so grateful for hot food and drinks as they hadn’t been able to eat or drink anything all day – no electric, living upstairs – everything was floating on the lower floor. We made sure they had somewhere to go for the evening. We had a large bag of toys and the little boy was so happy to be able to have these and I spent some time playing with him while mum and dad made phone calls etc.

The boat crew who rescued them arrived and were happy with a cup of hot drink, but we ended up providing soup, sandwiches and readying their pot noodles they keep in the truck for emergencies! They wanted to have a photo with the family and us – but we decided to just take the photo of them and the family – we only played a very small part.

The rescue crews said that the remaining residents wanted to stay in their houses for a variety of reasons, and I checked with the local fire crew to see if they needed anything else, they were finishing up and hoping to head back to their homes. I then had my colleague post on our social media page that although we were now closing the centre, we would be available via phone call (and left the main mobile number) should anyone affected need us for shelter/food etc.
Monday morning I again posted online that we would be opening all day, we were again sent so many offers of help and assistance. Before arriving at work Monday I went to one of the hardest hit areas and checked on some residents and a business premises to advise them we are open if they need and also was there anything we could do to help them as a community. On Tuesday I spoke with the displaced family and have provided them with information of various people and groups who have offered support from replacement furniture, bedding, coffee mugs or just general help. Again they were very grateful.

We probably had over 100 volunteers on the day in one way shape or form. And even though we didn’t have any particular plan in place to start with we were able to try and coordinate where best the volunteers were needed and utilised and this helped immensely. The fact that our town pulled together so quickly and really worked to help everyone was a beautiful sight to behold. Knighton is amazing!!

Where to find us

Llandrindod Wells Office

Unit 30
Ddole Road Industrial Estate
Llandrindod Wells
Powys
LD1 6DF

01597 822 191

Newtown Office

Plas Dolerw
Milford Road
Newtown
Powys
SY16 2EH

01686 626 220

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