Jeff Waters spent several years and $25,000 turning an old yellow school bus into his dream home.
In fact, the long-time Whistler resident and entrepreneur said he was only six hours away from completely restoring the mobile home when disaster struck and a mudslide in Birken buried his vehicle.
"Everything I've earned and all my time and energy has gone into it," he said.
Waters was one of several people impacted by the heavy debris flows and flooding that hit Areas B, C and D of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District on Sept. 19 and 20.
Several properties were damaged, along with a house and farm belonging to Rob and Erin Elliott that was completely destroyed.
Friend to the Elliotts, Waters had his bus parked on their property at the time and was helping out as a farmhand. But he isn't going to let this setback keep him fulfilling his dream of living in a self-sustainable home.
Waters has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he's seen so far.
"It's been really mind blowing how many people have come together to do so many great things," said Waters.
"It's devastating, but at the same time I've built it once before and I'm not afraid to do it again," he said. "I think I might alter the dream a little bit this time to a shipping container."
Those affected may get some much-needed financial assistance from the province after the event was declared eligible for disaster assistance funding.
"Our expectation is that those affected homeowners are working through the application process right now, and we're helping them where we can with that process," said the SLRD's emergency manager Ryan Wainwright.
If eligible, recipients can recoup 80 per cent of the damages to their home and land, up to $300,000 — a drop in the bucket considering insurance policies don't typically cover weather events considered "acts of God."
Fortunately, communities across the SLRD and Sea to Sky have stepped up to help the victims of the slide as well. A relief fund that was set up at Scotiabank in Pemberton has garnered more than $2,800 so far, while an online campaign for Waters (gofundme.com/cf4r3bnk) has hit the $2,000 mark. Another fundraiser for Ken Myers (gofundme.com/yb4z222k), whose home was severely damaged, has netted almost $11,000.
The Elliotts, meanwhile, have been humbled by the Canada-wide response their story has received, with crowdsourcing efforts (gofundme.com/xd4nchvw) pulling in over $45,000 so far. But the assistance has been more than just financial, with friends and strangers donating clothes and spending hours a day digging out their mud-caked home. A Vancouver couple has even offered their Birken cabin to the family rent-free for a year.
Rob hopes he can pay the generosity forward by using his platform to spread a crucial message.
"I've said this to a number of different people: Everyone needs to practice being grateful," he said. "People think their level of gratitude is enough, and then you have something like this happen, where there's just an outpouring of support, and you realize your gratitude can grow so much beyond what you thought possible."
Mudfest, a community fundraiser for the slide victims featuring live music, a silent auction and mud wrestling, has been scheduled for Oct. 3 at the Willowcraft Farm in Birken. Gates open at noon and the music continues until 2 a.m. A $20 admission entry is suggested. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/birkenmudfest.
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