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Clinton woman leads relief effort for flood victims

Christina Porter stands with Bret Griffith, a Langley man whose family in Lewis County lost everything in the December disaster. Porter collected a truckload of donations for flood victims in Lewis County and expects to continue helping in the relief effort. - Spencer Webster
Christina Porter stands with Bret Griffith, a Langley man whose family in Lewis County lost everything in the December disaster. Porter collected a truckload of donations for flood victims in Lewis County and expects to continue helping in the relief effort.
— image credit: Spencer Webster

LANGLEY — She just wanted to donate some clothing and pet food to Lewis County flood victims in the days following last month’s deadly disaster.

The early December storm was blamed for five deaths, and flooding rivers left many homeless in Lewis County.

But when Christina Porter of Clinton asked friends for donations to help strangers hundreds of miles away, they delivered.

“I felt I could do something right away. I have a bunch of clothes that I didn’t wear. Then I called my friend who works at Cenex and asked him if he’d donate some pet food,” Porter said.

“Then it kind of snowballed,” she said, adding that Cenex-Skagit Farmers Supply in Freeland then donated a pallet of pressed logs.

That was only the beginning.

Porter, who works at the Edgecliff and Gordon’s On Blueberry Hill, told her customers about the donations. Many began adding to her stockpile by putting cash in her hand or clothing on her porch at home.

The pile got so big she had to rent a truck. And when the truck was full, she drove south for almost three hours to Lewis County.

“The people in Adna, Pe Ell and Boisfort were the ones the hardest hit. I’ve never seen so much damage in all my life,” she said. “Thirty homes were condemned; homes that the water came in so fast, the walls were pushed out from the inside.”

“People were trying to clean up muck that filled their homes and it all was contaminated,” she said.

Through all of the devastation she witnessed, Porter also saw hope and help.

“All I saw was community trying to help each other, people donating everywhere, and trucks coming in from everywhere with clothing and food,” she said.

“Most of these people are really poor, have no insurance or anything,” Porter said, recalling her visit just before Christmas. “People were grabbing stuff out of my arms as we were trying to unload the donations.”

Porter also saw the relief effort needed more than donated food and other staples; survivors of the flooding also needed practical goods such as flooring materials, carpet, insulation, shovels, boots and cash donations. She plans to solicit local businesses and friends for more help in the weeks ahead.

“When I get back from Christmas, that is what I am going to work on next, soliciting construction people I know and businesses around here to see if they can come up with building supplies. That is what people need now,” she said.

Though Whidbey Island was largely spared during the Dec. 2 storm that battered western Washington, the disaster has touched other lives on the South End.

Bret Griffith of Langley has family in Adna, a logging and farming community that boats a small general store but not much else. Griffith’s parents lost their entire farm in the flooding, and he recently spent two weeks helping his family recover from the disaster.

It was during a return trip to Langley that the self-employed business owner met Porter.

“The beautiful story is really kinda how it’s happening down there, it happened right here. It’s about neighbors helping neighbors,” Griffith said.

“I was amazed that when I got here, she was leaving to go there with a truckload. My family was blown away by the donations,” he said.

Griffith said he did not expect a quick or easy end to the clean-up effort.

“My guess is that it will be the next couple of years of my life,” he said.

Porter, who has worked in the restaurant business for more than 25 years on Whidbey Island, is hoping that donations will continue to come in. She said she was grateful to those who have already given.

“I just realized how people need each other; we all need each other,” she said. “It was a calling in my heart to help out. It was meant to be.”

Anyone who wants to help with donations can contact Porter at the Edgecliff.

“I will go down there as many times as it takes. I only get one day off every week. If I have to go every Sunday, I will.”

“The real message here is that one person can make a difference in a community, a hell of a difference,” Griffith said.

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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