Tzu Chi Volunteers Provide Swift Relief After Shocking Washington State Floods

Northwest  |  December 23, 2021
In November, the level of rainfall experienced in Washington State was shocking, and Tzu Chi volunteers swiftly provide their aid. Photo/Hung Wen Chang

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.

I myself have been homeless before, so I wanted to come out to do my part to help our community and all of our neighbors. I’m just really thankful to be here, and I’m super thankful for the Tzu Chi Foundation for doing their part to help out all of our friends here locally. It’s been a really wonderful experience for us.

Kate Torres, Local Volunteer

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.

They came and they looked at the scene. And that was one week ago. And here you see all the work that happened in one week. It’s been so great to work with Tzu Chi. I’ve just been honored to have you guys in my community, and I just really appreciate everything that this organization always does to help people.

Steven Simmons, Founder of the Community Partnership for Transition Solutions
A community resident generously delivers coffee to the distribution, warming the spirits of guests on that cold and rainy day. Photo/Hung Wen Chang
Tzu Chi volunteers work with the community to provide relief during the Thanksgiving weekend. Photo/Tzu Chi Seattle Service Center

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