For Amanda McDougall-Merrill, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, volunteers with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada did more than repair homes damaged by Hurricane Fiona in Cape Breton.
“You brought hope and love to the community,” she told about 90 people gathered Aug. 24 at the Sydney River United Protestant Church in Sydney River, N.S., for a celebration that closed the disaster relief organization’s involvement in the region.
After the storm, which struck on Sept. 24, 2022, people felt alone and hopeless, she said.
“You did more than build walls and fix houses. You brought love here,” McDougall-Merrill said, presenting a plaque to MDS that expressed appreciation to the volunteers from across Canada who came to “rebuild homes and restore hope.”
Local MLA Fred Tilley echoed her words. “You gave hope to our community when there was none,” he said, presenting a Nova Scotia flag to MDS representatives. “You now are in the hearts of thousands of Cape Bretoners.”
A total of 458 volunteers from across Canada provided more than 32,000 hours of service for 272 families and community organizations. This included repairs to 44 houses, 28 new roofs or roof repairs, and 179 tree-cutting and clean up jobs.
“I don’t know what we would have done without MDS,” said Lynne McCarron, executive director of the United Way of Cape Breton, MDS Canada’s partner in the region. “We were lucky to have you in our community.”
Roman Heuft, who coordinated the MDS response in Nova Scotia, said that many people deserve thanks for what the organization accomplished, “but most of all God.”
“MDS was here for his glory, not our own,” Heuft said.
He went on to express appreciation to the volunteers; to the United Way of Cape Breton; to Camp Bretondean and the United Protestant Church of Sydney River, both of which hosted MDS while in Cape Breton; to local building inspectors who “streamlined the building permit process;” to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which provided a grant of $100,000 for the response; and to Air Canada for offering discount airfares to Cape Breton.
He also thanked his wife Charlene back in B.C. who, he said, “always encouraged me to use my abilities to serve our Lord.”
In closing, Heuft quoted MDS volunteer Peter Thiessen, who served as a project director in Grand Forks, B.C. in 2019.
“MDS is here for a season,” Heuft said to the Cape Bretoners at the celebration. “Our season is now over. We pass the baton to you to carry on the work of helping those in need.”