Former Airdronian named one of Alberta’s Heroes of the Flood
By: Allison Chorney
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 27, 2014 10:43 am
The Alberta Government recognized the efforts of more than 1,300 individuals and organizations Feb. 20, as they announced the recipients of Alberta’s Heroes of the Flood award.
Included in the list of heroes was former Airdronian Tamara Carmell, who operates Room in a Box, an organization that provided more than 1,400 boxes to victims of the June 2013 flooding in High River. Each box is filled with enough new goods for one room and is given to families in need as they rebuild their lives in High River, according to Carmell, who grew up in Airdrie but now calls Calgary home.
“At first I was in absolute, utter shock,” she said of the recognition. “I don’t consider myself a hero. I think of the guy trudging through the water with a person in his arms as a hero.”
She added she believes there are many other people who were not included in Alberta’s Flood Heroes that she thinks should have been.
“There are many unspoken Heroes of the Flood,” Carmell said.
However, after the shock wore off, she said the importance of the recognition began to set in.
“It’s an incredible honour. I don’t think there is a word to describe it because it’s so huge,” she said, adding she was humbled by the nomination.
Other Airdrie Alberta’s Heroes of the Flood recipients include Al Jones, who also helps with Room in a Box, and the non-profit group Airdrie Moms.
Carmell said the idea of Room in a Box came about as a way for her to help her cousin after the cousin’s home was severely damaged in the flood.
She went to High River on July 5; two weeks after her cousin was forced to abandon her home.
“When I got there, it was just overwhelming to see an entire town go through that,” Carmell said.
She added, she had seen the impact of hurricanes in Texas and could only compare the damage in High River to the aftermath of a hurricane.
“So after helping (my cousin) throw away literally everything out of her house, I was driving home and was in tears thinking about how I could help,” she said.
Carmell said she thought if she could get together enough new items for one room in her cousin’s home, then maybe other family members could do other rooms and it wouldn’t be as much of a strain for her cousin to recover.
The idea took off and soon expanded beyond Carmell’s family to friends and other people who wanted to help. She said she realized people were looking to her to connect them with families in need and she organized Room in a Box.
“It was just supposed to be this small, little idea and it just snowballed,” she said.
Even though we may not see daily updates on the impact of the flood on the news anymore, Carmell is still making the weekly journey to High River to bring in more supplies and help out more people.
“The biggest battle is the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality,” she said of the continued need for support to High River and other flood-impacted areas.
She said some people in the town are still not living in their own homes and they don’t know when they will be.
“Every week when people pick stuff up they have tears in their eyes. It just means so much to them to have one of the burdens lightened,” she said.
She added even with government assistance and insurance claims the ordeal is “a tremendous emotional and financial strain” for victims.
Carmell added Room in a Box gives everything donated to the people who need it in High River. She also covers the cost of the gas for her weekly visits and purchases some items included in the boxes out of her own pocket.
Carmell will receive a certificate of recognition from Alberta Government and a letter of appreciation from the Premier.
“It’s still something I’m trying to wrap my head around,” Carmell said of the recognition.
For a complete list of Heroes of the Flood recipients, visit alberta.ca/heroes-of-the-flood.cfm