A Boundary-wide clothing drive has brought much-needed winter wear to flood-stricken Princeton, where a storm surge put nearly 300 homes underwater late Sunday, Nov. 14.
The effort got underway shortly thereafter, as three Boundary women put together a campaign now actively supported by Midway Mayor Martin Fromme and his Grand Forks counterpart, Brian Taylor.
Speaking to The Gazette Tuesday, Nov. 23, Rev. Cathy Straume of Greenwood said she’d brought to Princeton’s Baptist Church 450 coats, boots, scarves and other winter apparel left over from Grand Forks’ Coats for Kids giveaway over the Nov. 12-13 weekend. Straume normally distributes leftover coats to food banks and churches across the West Boundary, but she and Grand Forks’ Joyce O’Doherty and Lorraine Dick decided the warmth was more urgently needed in Princeton.
“People were running for their lives when they fled their homes,” Straume said, drawing on images from the night the Tulameen River breached its banks. “It had been relatively warm out, and not everyone would’ve thought to grab warm clothes,” she continued.
Having been through devastating flooding in May 2018, all three women said natural disasters call for targeted relief. “The idea was that we’d give what they didn’t have,” O’Doherty said, to which Straume qualified that generosity “needs to go where it’s needed, when it’s needed.”
Over at Princeton’s Baptist Church, flood relief coordinator Rhianfa Riel told Straume that townspeople were lacking adult-sized coats and winter socks, more acutely.
Straume then called Fromme, who was on a personal shopping trip in Penticton.
Never one to ignore people in need, Fromme said he sprang into action. “The story is that I was having dinner with my wife at a restaurant across from a Walmart, so I told Cathy I’d go over there and make something happen.”
He left the store with an estimated 350 pairs of socks, which Taylor has volunteered to drive out to Princeton Thursday, Nov. 25.
Fromme said he bought the socks himself because, “That’s what makes the world go ‘round.” People helping other people will serve as “the better part of this tragedy,” he said.
Dick said she’d helped load 35 bags of adult coats and boots into the mayor’s van. Taylor and Dick said Thursday’s delivery would also include electric heaters from people in the community.
Straume, O’Doherty and Dick said they would organize another clothing drive if they were asked by Riel. For her part, Riel said her church has already given away Straume’s load of winter gear.
“We’ve got rain and snow coming and winter temperatures drop to the minus 28 range — sometimes a lot colder than that,” she told The Gazette, stressing that many in Princeton will need to stay warm and dry as they clean out their flood-damaged homes and cars.
Applauding all the principals involved, Riel several times highlighted that Grand Forks had come out big for her town.
“Grand Forks cares because Grand Forks knows what it’s like,” she said, telling The Gazette that, “When I think about the size of your city, and how many people have stepped up to offer support — that blows me away.”