Spirit and drive brings Thanksgiving to hundreds of Whatcom County flood victims

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — On this holiday, hundreds of flood victims in Whatcom County are unable to use their ovens, or be in their homes at all. But the community is banding together to serve a slice of Thanksgiving to those who wouldn’t be able to celebrate otherwise.

There are still about 10 people staying at the emergency Red Cross shelter in Lynden. Many more are squashed into spare trailers or staying with friends and family.

“There’s a huge amount of need,” said Melanie Demerjian, who lives in Sumas. She helped rescue people with their tractor after the flooding 10 days ago and is now volunteering to help bring impacted families a Thanksgiving holiday.

The Smokestack Diner in Everson played a big role in helping put together a free dinner.

“They need to see their town loves them and supports them, and they need to walk away today with hope,” said Kari Gardner, co-owner of Smokestack Diner.

“My dad is less than a mile away from me and he had to be rescued by boat and brought to my house. So him, his wife and their animals are staying with me right now, and that’s happening all throughout the county,” Gardner said.

Robert and Kristy Zander Everson are two of the many who still can’t return home.

“We left at 4, 5 in the morning and we had no place to go,” Robert Zander said.

“We still have a lot of cleaning to do before it’s even considered safe to be in,” Kristy Zander said.

Their house is still covered in silt from the Nooksack River. Right now they’re staying in a spare trailer from a family member.

“Finding the people to get the help you need is hard because everybody is needing the same help right now. There’s not enough resources for everybody, and there are waitlists for everything,” Kristy Zander said.

What’s next in the recovery phase is uncertain. So far, damage assessments for the area have reached about $42 million, but there’s no word yet on how much help might come from FEMA, or when.

Now many are forced to wait before starting home repairs.

“We have fans running everywhere just trying to get everything dry before the mold and mildew sets in,” Kristy Zander said.

“It’s very hard. It’s hard any time, but holidays, I think, are the hardest,” Demerjian said.

But the Thanksgiving dinner, put on entirely through donations and volunteers, is bringing a few hours of comfort and warmth, and showcasing the strength and spirit of people in Whatcom County.

“It’s kind of nice to see how well this community has responded to try to help each other,” Kristy Zander said.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, we’re in this together,” Demerjian said.

If you want to donate towards helping people who are hoping to start home repairs, you can go to WhatcomStrong.com.