Written by Hung Wen Chang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
Beginning in October, Washington State enters the rainy season, and for many long-time locals, the colder temperatures and gray, damp skies that come with the season are not only familiar, but expected. This year, however, the torrential rains that all too suddenly drenched the state in early November had caused the Skagit River in northern Washington State to swell, and Mount Vernon, a city near the river, suffered the worst flooding it had seen in 30 years. Some areas were flooded up to four and five feet, with rescue teams mobilizing boats and construction vehicles to get to people who urgently needed help. People who were by the river, including community members experiencing homelessness at the time, had seen the water rising and fled for their lives.
“There were about 40 people who are homeless living by the river. All their belongings have been swept away by the flood and they are in urgent need of help,” explained Steven Simmons, founder of the Community Partnership for Transition Solutions. Steven came to know Tzu Chi through the foundation’s collaborative efforts with Community Partnership for Transition Solutions, and has generously teamed up with volunteers from the Tzu Chi Seattle Service Center for several years. During these most recent efforts, volunteers jointly acted to assist community members whose tents, sleeping bags, and clothing, were lost due to floods.
Upon receiving Steven’s invitation, Tzu Chi volunteers first traveled into the flood-impacted area on November 21. They learned that while local churches and residents had provided initial relief, more assistance was needed. “So we prepared tents, sleeping bags, sanitary products, and brand-new warm coats, hats, gloves, socks, Tzu Chi blankets, scarves, umbrellas, masks, and more, and sent them all together,” said Tzu Chi volunteer Shu Chu Peng, who was in charge of the distribution plan. Within one week, volunteers from the Seattle Service Center had mobilized to carefully prepare supplies, and on November 28, during the Thanksgiving weekend, 12 volunteers set out to provide their aid.
Volunteers prepare the needed materials within one week. Photo/Yu Chin Hsieh
The continued rain and low temperatures that day were no match for Tzu Chi volunteers, who wore raincoats and put up tents outside Washington Elementary School in the Mount Vernon school district.
More than 20 neighbors in need came to collect emergency supplies. Photo/Tzu Chi Seattle Service Center
Considering that the number of items distributed for people experiencing homeless might be difficult to transport, volunteers also prepared large plastic bags that would additionally help keep the materials dry.
“Tzu Chi has prepared a lot of materials for our neighbors who have suffered this misfortune,” said a local named Kate Torres. When she and her son, Logan Croney, had learned of the event, they were immediately determined to offer their help.
In fact, several locals came to help on the day of the distribution, and seeing Tzu Chi’s efforts, another generous community resident even bought coffee and doughnuts. Many people who came to the distribution were wearing wet clothes, their jackets, socks, and sneakers soaked through, and volunteers swiftly offered hot cocoa, coffee, doughnuts, and sandwiches, to warm their bodies and hearts.