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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Volunteers work to save Peaceful Valley home as Spokane River floods

UPDATED: Mon., March 20, 2017

When Mary Jo Faulhaber saw water from the Spokane River creeping onto her property and threatening to flood her basement this morning, she called her good friend and ex-neighbor Heidi Boehl.

“I said, ‘How bad is it?’ ” Boehl recounted. “She said, ‘I have bad news. It’s coming over.’ ”

No matter – Boehl had handled this type of crisis before in the community of Peaceful Valley. She knew just what to do.

First, she called landscapers across Spokane asking for donated sand. She found one, Whittkopf Landscape Supply, that donated a small truckload and dropped it off in Faulhaber’s front yard.

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Then, she called Justus Bag Company, which was willing to sell 1,000 polypropylene plastic bags at cost. With the materials taken care of, all that was left was the muscle.

Again, not a problem for Boehl. In a matter of minutes, she got a small group of friends and neighbors to help. Within an hour or so, the small handful ballooned into more than a dozen people, all ready to block the river from entering their neighbor’s home.

“She’s really good at what she does,” Faulhaber said. “I give her all the credit.”

Faulhaber, who’s described as “The Matriarch of Peaceful Valley,” has lived in her home on the corner of Cedar and Water for about 30 years. Her home, which is adjacent to the house featured in “Benny and Joon,” has remained in her family since it was built around 1900.

In the time Faulhaber has lived in the neighborhood, she said she can remember each time it’s come under threat of flooding, which she says happens about every 10 years or so but used to happen a lot more often. She even remembers May 15, 1957, when water overtook much of Peaceful Valley.

“Water Avenue used to flood every year,” she said.

In 2008 and again in 2012, water threatened to overtake her basement, which sits in a flood-prone area near the river. In each instance, the community came together, much as they did Monday, and were able to thwart any flooding with well-placed bags of sand.

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” said Francie Parker, a good friend of Faulhaber and her daughter, Deanna Smulan.

Today’s lion’s share of helpers came from Recovery Cafe, a group that provides assistance to people dealing with addiction and homelessness that recently moved into the Peaceful Valley Community Center – and Pura Vida Recovery, a nonprofit active sober community center.

“Most of the people here are in recovery,” said Georgia Butler, the director of the Recovery Cafe, who has known Faulhaber for many years. “Folks in recovery help each other.”

Farther down the road on Water Avenue, water poured in from the Peaceful Valley River Walk, prompting the city to close sections of the street under more than a foot of water.

Boehl, who works at Evergreen Elder Law and used to live in the neighborhood and have coffee with Faulhaber in the morning, said she expects other houses down the road also will come under threat of flooding.

And when that happens, they’ll be ready.

“We’ll use as many sandbags as it takes here,” she said. “Then we’ll have them here in the community for whoever needs them.”

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