It’s generally not front-page news in the greater Walla Walla Valley when neighbors help neighbors. It’s what folks do from Milton-Freewater to Walla Walla to Dayton.
Yet, Sunday’s Union-Bulletin had a front-page headline proclaiming, “Community answers the call for help.” That’s because the way friends, neighbors and strangers came together to help those in need as historic floodwaters engulfed much of the region was extraordinary.
U-B reporter Vicki Hillhouse chronicled the ways in which Valley residents came together in that front-page story.
Julee Smith wasn’t sure where all of the volunteers came from as floodwaters inched over her 9.4-acre Mojonnier Road property toward her home Friday afternoon, Hillhouse wrote.
Yet, volunteers did arrive to help protect her house from the rising water, surrounding it with perhaps 200 sandbags.
This was just one of myriad example of the help that came in the midst of a crisis.
“The story of help and humanity rang throughout the Valley as floodwaters intruded Friday,” Hillhouse wrote.
For example, employees of Baker Boyer Bank began their day with a message from President and CEO Mark Kajita: “This is OUR community, we need to do everything we can do to help support it,” he said.
The list goes on and on.
The extraordinary volunteerism started Thursday when the rivers and creeks across the greater Walla Walla Valley began flooding around dark. A flood of volunteers appeared willing to fill sandbags, move horses to shelter and provide meals for emergency workers.
Volunteers showed up at Walla Walla’s Koncrete Industries to fill sandbags Thursday night, and they returned again Friday morning, including about 100 students from Walla Walla Valley Academy.
The flooding hit the Milton-Freewater area particularly hard. Many people had to be evacuated from their homes. McLoughlin High School gym, Ferndale Elementary and the city’s Community Building were used as shelters as everything east of Highway 11, from south Main Street to the river, was evacuated.
The Red Cross established shelter at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds Pavilion, and the Fairgrounds were also accepting livestock in need of shelter.
Starting Thursday evening, many people used social media to ask if anybody needed help, and they volunteered to do whatever is necessary to help, those whose homes were threatened by the rising waters.
And many folks didn’t even ask who needed help, they simply took action when they saw it was needed.
Having good neighbors to lend a hand — or much, much more — is part of what makes this area a special place to live.