After spending about $700 to purchase new clothes for her family during November's floods, Abbotsford, B.C., dairy farmer Jimi Meier decided to help others similarly affected.
"I just started thinking, that's just one family. There's so many more that are going to be affected. How can I help, being in a better situation?" said the Sumas Prairie resident.
As the devastating flood waters rose and then receded, Meier's husband and sons stayed on the farm to care for the animals while she sought safety. While their home was not flooded, they had no access to running water.
"They couldn't wash their clothes. He [Meier's husband] said, 'We're cold, we're wet, we need clothes,'" she said.
So she bought overalls, flannel jackets, socks and gloves. And the hefty price tag she paid inspired a new initiative.
Now she and her friend Hallie Jacobs are collecting gift card donations to support flood-hit families with warm clothing, groceries and home supplies. So far they have raised and handed out over $14,000 in gift cards directly to farmers in their community.
While the water that submerged the agricultural community in mid-November is now gone, Jacobs — who also had to evacuate her dairy farm in the Sumas Prairie — says some families are still facing challenges to stay warm.
"People don't have insulation in their homes, or they don't have drywall," she said. "People need space heaters, warm gloves and socks, winter jackets and blankets."
So far, the pair has left boxes for customers to drop gift cards in several Abbotsford stores, including Mark's Work Warehouse, Birchwood Dairy, Buckerfields, Shoppers Drug Mart and Starbucks.
They are also seeing donations come in via their dedicated Facebook page called Helping Sumas Prairie Farmers.
"It's developed into a really great thing," said Jacobs.
Meier says the benefit of gift cards is that flood-affected families can choose exactly what they need.
"I felt like they had been through enough. Let them just go find what they need," she said.
So far the gift cards, which Meier and Jacobs personally deliver, have helped more than 60 families in Abbotsford, they say.
"We're just going farm to farm and talking with everybody, hearing their stories, and they're telling us their needs right now," said Jacobs.
Businesses have also answered the call for help from Meier and Jacobs.
Kamik Boots in Quebec donated 300 pairs of boots, while Watson Gloves in Burnaby, B.C., contributed 1,000 pairs of gloves.
Meier and Jacobs say the support has been overwhelming.
"You start out helping your family, then your friends and your neighbours. Just being able to get things to people because they don't have the ability right now, it's a nice thing," said Meier.
Meier and Jacobs are encouraging donors to connect over their Facebook page, where updates on new gift card collection boxes and needed supplies are posted.